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IMF boss backs gender quota

Published:Sunday | June 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Christine Lagarde

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

The call for the use of a temporary quota system which would create a floor for the number of women who participate in leadership has received ringing endorsement from Christine Lagarde, the first female managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Delivering a guest lecture at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, last Friday, Lagarde said the contribution of women is critical to the advancement of economies.

The IMF boss was responding to Norma Heywood, from the UWI, who had asked whether there is a need for gender quotas given that a body of research has found that, "gender diverse leadership leads to better run companies".

"Yes, yes, undoubtedly yes," said Lagarde, a former finance minister in France even as she admitted that this was not always her position.

I used not to be in favour of quotas, I used to be in that category of young women who thought that we should just get there on our own merits and we didn't need to have quotas," she said.

"But then when you join some organisations, where the women relative to men is abysmally small and when you do your demographics and you realise that it is going to take 220 years to arrive at parity, you think to yourself uh ah, quotas are necessary for a given period of time. Once you have reached a good step, then you can do away with it because women can fight it on their own," said Lagarde.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has already argued that not enough progress has been made to increase the number of women involved in parliamentary decision-making since adult suffrage in 1944.

"We cannot sit back and feel comfortable because a few women have been able to break through the barriers and create history," said Simpson Miller at a function in Montego Bay, St James, weeks after a government female senator, Imani Duncan-Price, moved a motion in the Upper House calling for gender quotas.

In the 70 years since adult suffrage, only 35 of the 362 persons elected to Parliament have been women.

Duncan-Price is proposing that no single gender occupy more than 60 per cent of the seats in the Senate, and that a minimum 40 per cent of candidates for national elections be female. She also wants greater number of women on government boards.