Christine Lagarde on Her Plans for the European Central Bank

As you said, it’s something that is decided by governments when they appoint governors for their national central banks. What I can do is when there is a vacancy I can raise my voice. I can pick up the phone. I can impress upon them that it’s a bit ridiculous to have out of 25 members only two women. And thank goodness there are two of us now. And I can take photos like the one I took at a retreat that we had exactly a year ago in November. And at the time there was not even two women on the board. It was just me and 24 men.

How are your plans for the E.C.B. to fight climate change different from the past?

I’m not suggesting that the European Central Bank never did anything about climate change. But I think what I’m bringing to the bank is a sense of urgency and a determination to focus on it. The sense of urgency has already led us to setting up a special hub that will bring together representatives from various business areas of the bank to focus on climate change. So instead of climate change being scattered around randomly, depending on who cares for what, we now have a structured approach.

How would you compare the way you manage the governing council or the meetings to your predecessor, Mario Draghi? How do you see your style?

I don’t want to compare myself with Mario Draghi, and I don’t want to compare myself with men in general. But I know after a few years in those jobs that women are more inclusive than mercurial, more patient than impatient, are more respectful than abrasive. As a result, it often takes more time than it would, was I not patient, inclusive and respectful. You know, I was professionally brought up at an international law firm that actually paid as much respect to the vote and to the voice of somebody who came from Jakarta, from Rome, or from New York. And I think that has saved me, and I think it’s more solid at the end of the day.

Finally, we were wondering whether there are women, famous or not, to whom you have turned for advice or guidance, and what is the best piece of advice you have ever received that helped your career, in your assessment?

One person that I used to turn to for guidance and advice was certainly my mother. She was a clear inspiration and a guide for me. What advice did I receive from her or from others? I would say a couple of things. One is from my coach on the national team. [As a teenager, Ms. Lagarde was on France’s national team for synchronized swimming]. She used to say, you know, ‘Grit your teeth and smile,’ that is something that always stayed with me. ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down,’” is another one.

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