x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

IMF staff prefer glass ceiling despite Lagarde

The IMF may have appointed its first female ahead last year - but the majority of the its employees warned that promoting women "lower the quality" of the institution.

Christine Lagarde was chosen as the IMF's first female managing director amid growing resistance to a change in the staff's demographic mix. AFP
Christine Lagarde was chosen as the IMF's first female managing director amid growing resistance to a change in the staff's demographic mix. AFP

The IMF may have appointed its first female head last year - but the majority of employees who took part in a survey warned that increasing the number of women would "lower the quality" of the institution.

A poll has revealed the IMF, which made Christine Lagarde its managing director last year after Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid, is struggling to make its staff see the benefit in diversity.

A 2010 staff survey indicated "growing resistance" to diversity among staff, who were concerned targets and changing the demographic mix would reduce opportunities for advancement, said the IMF's Diversity Annual Report 2011.

The "majority" of comments indicated a lack of clarity on why the fund was increasing its focus on diversity.

Other concerns included a fear that increasing the numbers of women and staff from underrepresented regions would result in "lowering the quality of the fund".

Women and staff from underrepresented regions said they were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the "backlash, specifically with assumptions being made that their career progression was due to their gender or being from an underrepresented region and not to their performance and competence", said the report.

The IMF has a special diversity office and ran a number of programmes last year, including a conference and series of women's networking receptions.

But they seem to have made little impact.

"In view of continuing misperception among some staff about the rationale behind the fund's diversity agenda, the business case for diversity, including diversity of thought, is worth reiterating," said the report.

It pointed out diversity played an important role in problem-solving and critical analysis. A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2009 found creating an inclusive environment in which divergent views are shared and considered was shown to lead to enhanced group performance, added the report.

The IMF's board, which discussed the report in June, has acknowledged more needs to be done to promote diversity.

"Directors expressed support for the diversity-related initiatives in response to the 2010 staff survey, specifically the importance of clearly communicating the business case for diversity and the increased attention to inclusion, while ensuring that performance drives recruitment and promotions," said an IMF notice this week.

gduncan@thenational.ae

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