How did a woman born into communist Bulgaria rise to lead one of the most powerful institutions on earth? This is the question I asked Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and the first person from an emerging-market economy to head the world’s crisis lender with its $1 trillion in resources.
I had the pleasure of spending time with Kristalina at the 2020 Global Women’s Forum Dubai, and we delved into her personal story, the forks in the road and the choices she made that led to this role. I asked Kristalina for advice to women on the rise, as well as the key takeaways from the IMF’s recent report on the power of diversity.
Prior to the IMF, Kristalina was the CEO of the World Bank for two years, before which she served as European Commission Vice President for Budget and Human Resources, overseeing the EU’s €161 billion budget and 33,000 staff. In that capacity, she was deeply involved in efforts to address the Euro Area debt crisis and the 2015 refugee crisis. From 2010-2014, Kristalina was Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, managing one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid budgets – during our chat, she referred to this experience as a formative one. In 2010, she was named “European of the Year” for her leadership in the EU’s humanitarian response to crises.
My favorite quotes of the episode were:
- “We gain nothing from anxiety… And a smile opens more doors than a shout”
- “I saw what real tragedy is, and I saw how people who have nothing can be generous and kind and supportive to each other… I learn from them”
We did not talk about books, but Kristalina did recommend a movie called Bridge of Spies. We ended our chat with a call to action: the IMF is looking to hire women from the MENA Region with a strong background in economic policy… “Don’t be shy; please apply!”