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IMF's Lagarde on the absence of women at banks: 'Be careful what you look like'

The lack of women in finance is unfair to women and bad for banks, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde told Yahoo Finance this week at the World Economic Forum.

“There’s something wrong,” said Lagarde, who has helmed the IMF since 2011. “If you look at the composition of boards in that sector, only 20% of them are women. If you look at the CEOs of the financial sector, only 2% are women ... our societies don’t look like that. And if you look at graduates from universities and business schools, it doesn’t look like 20% or 2%. It’s a lot more than that.”

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, attends a session of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Lagarde made the comments in a conversation that appeared on Yahoo Finance on Thursday at 5 p.m. EST in a special Davos episode of “ Influencers with Andy Serwer ,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

‘Be careful what you look like’

In addition to a wide-ranging conversation with Lagarde in which she shared her advice for President Donald Trump, Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer spoke to two other women business leaders: Mary Erdoes, JPMorgan's Asset & Wealth Management CEO, and Lynne Doughtie, KPMG's U.S. Chairman and CEO. Serwer also spoke to musician and tech entrepreneur will.i.am.

In her interview with Serwer, Lagarde said the absence of women in finance harms banks because “you have to mirror your client base. You have to include all talents and you have an unbelievable source of untapped talents.”

“My encouragement ... be careful what you look like,” she added.

Asked about her advice for Trump if he selected her to be an economic advisor for the administration, Lagarde quickly responded, “Trump would never ask me to be his advisor.”

She continued: “I would try to identify how well-governed, multilateral trade can be efficient and can be beneficial for each and every participant. That would be my mission No. 1.”

JPMorgan Asset & Wealth Management CEO Mary Erdoes speaks with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer.

Erdoes, the JPMorgan executive, gave an unvarnished economic forecast, saying “the outlook is difficult.” She cited the government shutdown, the impending Brexit, and U.S.-China trade tensions as items on a “laundry list” of “moving pieces.”

She then offset her remarks, noting, “Of course, we have the economy that's still relatively strong, everywhere in the world, mostly in the developed markets, but also in the emerging economies.”

Doughtie, the head of KPMG, echoed Erdoes’s concerns about the trade war between the U.S. and China and its effect on the global economy.

“The trade wars and how that will be resolved ... that’s creating the biggest uncertainty that I hear CEOs talk about, particularly in the U.S,” she said. “How we can move on from that to have more certainty about the impact of the policy and how business are impacted.”

But, surveying the world economy moments later, Doughtie said, “The U.S. is the bright spot around the globe.”

Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance.

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Lagarde: We see risk on the horizon, and the horizon is getting closer

Bill Browder: Political divisions are ‘directly the result of Vladimir Putin’

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