Women Speak to G(irls)20 at the Chengdu G20 Meeting
It may not be the best thing to say but it’s a tumultuous time in the global economy. Loaded comment right? Well, last week I had the rare opportunity to attend the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Chengdu, China. There were discussions on managing the risk in the global economy to ensure stability for citizens. Financial leaders debated the best way for governments to encourage economic growth in their countries, as growth estimates continue to be feeble. The meetings also focused on the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The mood at the conference was definitely impacted by the recent acts of terrorism in G20 countries, leaving attendees worried not only about the economic impacts on their countries, but also the security of their citizens.
The meetings were fast-paced. Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors were whisked from working sessions to bilateral meetings with other attendees – where much of the work gets done – to interviews with media. I was honoured to fit in two interviews with senior female attendees, Christine Lagarde and Carolyn Wilkins.
Christine Lagarde is the current Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, an organization that works to keep the global economy stable – and the first woman to hold this critically important position.
I asked Ms. Lagarde how it felt to be a female role model in the international economic world. With modesty, she said that she didn’t believe she was a role model for the men she worked with, but perhaps for their wives and daughters – an implicit statement about the need for more women in her world. Ms. Lagarde attributes her success to respect for others, confidence in her abilities, a recognition of the importance of teamwork, and, of course, a sense of humour. She had some advice for young women aspiring to be global leaders — speak multiple languages, travel the world, respect others and have no limits to your expectations.
Carolyn Wilkins is the current Senior Deputy Governor for the Bank of Canada, and a key leader in the Bank efforts to manage the stability of the economy. Canadians, take a look at your money – Ms. Wilkins is the first Canadian woman to have her signature on a bank note!
I asked Ms. Wilkins about how it felt to attend the primarily male G20 Finance and Central Bank Governors meeting. She acknowledged the environment, with the ratio at the working table of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors being 60 men to 3 women, but her view is that at the G20 table, with the intense focus on critically important global issues, gender doesn’t get in the way. Ms. Wilkins also shared her advice for young women aspiring to leadership roles in government or business. She emphasized the importance of having confidence in yourself and remembering that gender is not a barrier to accomplishment. She also identified the importance of strong mentors and supporters. She expressed her gratitude for having had several mentors through the Bank of Canada’s mentorship program and is currently mentoring four future bank leaders.
What an honour to meet and talk to the hugely accomplished Ms. Lagarde and Ms. Wilkins, global leaders who are literally improving our world. For G(irls)20, they are living proof of the potential for the next generation of female leaders!
By Clare Morneau, Author of Kakuma Girls.