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First woman to head ECB? Not likely yet

The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, steps down at the end of October and the 19 euro zone countries are now looking for his replacement. 

The shortlists of likely candidates are almost exclusively male. 

It is one of several top jobs in the European Union that are up for grabs and the subject of intense horse-trading, with an eye to bringing more women into the most prominent positions. 

The ECB, never yet led by a woman, is one of the most male-dominated major European institutions.

23 of the 25 members of its governing council are men, including 18 of the 19 heads of national central banks of euro zone member countries. 

The only woman who runs a central bank in the euro zone, Ireland’s acting governor Sharon Donnery, steps down on September 1. 

But there is no shortage of women who could reach the top ranks of the bank including: 

Christine Lagarde (63) – The Managing Director of the IMF and a former French finance minister, Lagarde has top-level managerial credentials but is not an economist and has no central bank or any other banking experience, which is required by law.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde

She would require the support of French President Emmanuel Macron, who would need to pass over more likely male candidates to pick her.

Sylvie Goulard (55) – France’s deputy central bank governor, a polyglot with a solid grasp of banking supervision, seen as a committed pro-European. But she has no major managerial experience and a low public profile.

To nominate her, Macron would have to overlook his favourite for the job, the current central bank governor Francois Villeroyde Galhau and current ECB board member Benoit Coeure.

Elke Koenig (64) – A German and the first chair of the newly-established Single Resolution Board of the Single Resolution Mechanism, a Brussels-based euro zone instrument for managing failing banks. Although she leads a key euro zone institution, her focus has been on banking rather than monetary policy.

Claudia Buch (53) – An economist and now deputy governor of the German central bank. Her appointment would require leapfrogging her boss, Bundesbank governor Jens Weidmann.

Buch, while a respected economist, has kept a relatively low profile at the Bundesbank and made a point of steering clear of monetary policy issues, leaving the topic to Weidmann.

Sharon Donnery (46) – Ireland’s acting central bank governor until September 1 when the bank’s new head takes over. She is an expert mainly in bank supervision, rather than monetary policy.

Acting Central Bank Governor Sharon Donnery

By custom, no two people from the same country sit on the ECB board, an obstacle for Donnery as her former boss Philip Lane just joined the board as chief economist.

Isabel Schnabel (48) – A German academic and member of the prominent German Council of Economic Experts. She is an economist with knowledge of monetary policy. But she has no experience in running a major institution and could be considered too young for the most senior role.

Elisa Ferreira (63) – Deputy governor of the Portuguese central bank, a former EUl awmaker for the Socialist Party in 2004-2016. Relatively shortbanking experience.

Margarita Delgado (56) – Deputy central bank governor of Spain and an economist by training with expertise in bank supervision. With a Spanish vice-president in the person of Luis de Guindos, a second Spaniard is highly unlikely to get on the ECB board.

Marja Nykänen (57) – Finland’s deputy central bank governor with no great experience in monetary policy. Her current boss, central bank governor Olli Rehn as well as former Finnish governor Erkki Liikanen are seen as more likely names from Helsinki.

Else Bos (60) – Executive Director and Chair for Prudential Supervision at the Dutch central bank with no experience in monetary policy. Joined the bank only a year ago and her boss Klaas Knot seems a more likely Dutch candidate.

Asta Kuniyoshi (49) – Deputy Chair of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania who only joined last month so has little required experience.

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