For those of you that are unfamiliar with this intergovernmental organization, the IMF oversees the global financial system and gives out loans to countries in need. Unfortunately there is a long history of such loans being attached to conditions that have undermined the ability of those countries to provide even the most basic services to their people.
Though my memory of the details is a bit rusty, I remember the strong distaste many of my professors expressed toward this institution, especially the one who was born and raised in Latin America and had seen the controversy first hand.
The IMF is now under a different type of scrutiny. Its chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was recently boarding a plane at JFK Airport when he received quite the surprise – arrest, followed by some time in a jail cell. A 32-year old woman who worked at the hotel Strauss-Kahn had stayed at in Manhattan reported that she had been forcibly attacked, locked in his room, and sexually assaulted.
What is the likelihood that these allegations are true? Strauss-Kahn has a reputation for being a womanizer, to the extent that in 2009 comedian Stephane Guillon did a bit on France’s public radio on the security measures the station should take preceeding Strauss-Kahn arrival. He jokingly mentioned that women should wear long, dark, unsexy clothing, avoid isolated places like the bathroom facilities, and keep an ear out for emergency sirens that would act as a sign to evacuate all women from the building.
On a more serious note, various female IMF employees over the years have requested to never work with him alone in a room. Clearly this man is a sexual predator on some level.
What is their hiring criteria? Is it based on personality or character? One of the radio guests mentioned that people hire in their own image, and Strauss-Khan was most likely chosen based on his ability to get people to do things for him. He is a seductive charmer.
Considering that the IMF’s mandate is to reduce poverty, and that the load of poverty falls disproportionately on impoverished women, perhaps it’s time for the IMF to re-examine its corporate culture in respect to women. If the head of such a powerful institution views women as objects to be used and abused, there is a danger that this attitude will affect decisions that are made and trickle down through the ranks of the organization.
For the sake of the world’s impoverished, vulnerable, and exploited women, Strauss-Kahn needs to say good bye to his prestigious and powerful positions at IMF.
How do you think corporate culture can be changed to respect women? Do you think this is important for institutions like the IMF? If these allegations are proven true, what should be done with Strauss-Kahn? For those of you who know France’s history of letting their leaders get away with sex scandals, do you think this goes too far considering that Strauss-Kahn was a possible presidential candidate?