Four anecdotes from the World Bank’s CEO

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The Center for Strategic and International Studies had an event earlier in October, hosting Dr. Kristalina Georgiva, CEO of the World Bank. She is the epitome of what many would consider a new age woman who has broken the glass ceiling. Her position not only holds great power, but comes with a series of experiences, and challenges that she prevailed. Here are a few anecdotes from the talk:

1 – When Dr. Georgiva started off her career, her perspective to gender equality was much different than what it is now. She said, “Earlier in my career, I turned cold on feminism. So I was resistant on equality. I only saw good humans and bad. I didn’t see gender.” Until, she travelled to Vietnam for a World Bank project, as the team lead. The Vietnam team asked her to convey a message to the then Vice President of the World Bank. It said, “thank you for sending high profile women leaders, as an example, for our men”. The women there was grateful to have visible women leaders not only for themselves, but also as a good example for their men to observe and learn. To portray that in order to be a good leader, one does not need to be a man.

Then when asked to convey her message for the women of today,  she said  – “Stand up, be counted”

2 – What do you say when people say women are getting all they attention these days?

We make sure that gender doesn’t favour anyone unless the two people are equal. If they’re not equal, chose the better, more qualified person. If they are equal, chose the woman. It creates conditions that facilitate women to rise up. But we also need to make sure the facilities required for women are available such as childcare, flexibility of timings during months of pregnancy, etc. We need to create that space because as they say – there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.

Because if there is a position open, which has 5 eligibility requirements, and a woman does not fulfil 1 criteria, she would say, “Well, I don’t fulfil that one criteria”. But the man would say, “I fill all but one criteria, and here is my personality”. Women might feel the need to cover up their inefficiencies far more than what is required. You don’t want a woman to feel any lesser. A professional setting must allow a woman to feel safe.

I learnt that applies not only for professional achievements but also for safety in sexual conduct. Friends of my brothers’ almost raped me, and my colleagues said I must not talk about it, and it was too personal. I regret not speaking of it then. I make sure there is a strict check on any unacceptable activity under my watch. As World Bank CEO today I make sure to unleash the energy of the staff and set the right tone.

3 – When we gave money to households in Niger, we gave it only to the women and we asked the men how they felt. They said “first I felt bad, but I’m happy cause if you would given it to me, I would have bought a bicycle, but you gave her, so we’re not starving”. So – Women!

It could be difficult to have such changes in societies where women are not welcome. I have understood that the sound of hate is very loud. The sound of anger is very loud. But the sound of goodness is a quite one. Amplify this sound and you will see betterment is possible. Amplify this sound, and you will see the difference.

4 – When I first walked into the World Bank I wore my best suit, a red one, like the one I’m wearing right now. But after I got out, I went straight to the store, and bought a black one. But with time I realised, that I must not be afraid to stand out. If you believe in yourself, then others will believe in you. Do not be afraid to stand out.

All the anecdotes are rephrased to translate the talk into an article.

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2 thoughts on “Four anecdotes from the World Bank’s CEO

  1. Palak – interesting points made here and each one can be debated. Gender equality has been written about and discussed in so many forums, it loses its strength. Equality is a far greater point that needs to be worked on. If we all begin to treat each other with the same respect and love as human beings, gender equality will cease to exist!

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