With the arrest of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn this week, it’s not just the man himself that’s been thrown under a very uncomplimentary spotlight.The IMF as an organisation is now being harshly scrutinized.
Does it ignore complaints about sexual intimidation?
If DSK is guilty of the sex crimes of which he’s accused, can the IMF’s (alleged) laissez-faire attitude to harassment be blamed at all?
According to the New York Times, women who have worked for the IMF said it’s a place “whose sexual norms and customs are markedly different from those of Washington, leaving its female employees vulnerable to harassment.”
One of the IMF’s former economists, a woman called Carmen Reinhart compared the situation to everyone’s favourite buccaneer flick, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’
“The IMF is “sort of like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’; the rules are more like guidelines. That sets the stage, I think, for more risk-taking,” she said.
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And apparently,Some women avoid wearing skirts for fear of attracting unwanted attention. Others trade whispered tips about overly forward bosses.
A 2008 internal review found few restraints on the conduct of senior managers, concluding that “the absence of public ethics scandals seems to be more a consequence of luck than good planning and action.”
(We thought we should point out that we believe that the IMF isn’t the only institution in which women wouldn’t wear tight clothing to avoid wolf-whistling and the like. Not that that makes it excusable, we’re just saying — that would be a widespread practice across the corporate world).
The examples of overlooking harassment were:
- In 2007 the IMF refused to look into a complaint by an administrative assistant who’d slept with her supervisor. She said he’d given her bad performance reviews to “pressure her to continue the relationship.”
- In 2009, the IMF didn’t take action after a woman complained that a senior manager had been sending her sexually explicit emails.
The IMF said that that type of negligence doesn’t happen anymore and they’ve changed their policies to make sure of that.
In an email, IMF spokesman, William Murray, said of the Times’ portrayal, “This is not the Fund we know and work in. Is it a perfect place? No. But this report creates an impression of institutionalized harassment and disrespect. That is not the case. Harassment is not tolerated in the institution.”
That was backed up by the former director of the fiscal affairs department, Teresa Ter-Minassian, who had worked there for almost 40 years. She said she’d never once experienced harassment.