International Male Frathouse?

Today’s New York Times piece on the culture of  sexual harassment at the IMF may torpedo the candidacy of Turkish economist Kemal Dervis, considered the frontrunner as of yesterday, a paints a very unexpected picture of the institution: Some women avoid wearing skirts for fear of attracting unwanted attention. Others trade whispered tips about overly ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Today's New York Times piece on the culture of  sexual harassment at the IMF may torpedo the candidacy of Turkish economist Kemal Dervis, considered the frontrunner as of yesterday, a paints a very unexpected picture of the institution:

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.”  [...]

What may draw even more attention to the culture of the fund is the revelation of an affair involving a potential successor to Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as managing director on Wednesday. Kemal Dervis of Turkey had a liaison while working at the World Bank years ago with a woman who now works at the I.M.F., according to a person with direct knowledge of the relationship.

Today’s New York Times piece on the culture of  sexual harassment at the IMF may torpedo the candidacy of Turkish economist Kemal Dervis, considered the frontrunner as of yesterday, a paints a very unexpected picture of the institution:

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.”  […]

What may draw even more attention to the culture of the fund is the revelation of an affair involving a potential successor to Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as managing director on Wednesday. Kemal Dervis of Turkey had a liaison while working at the World Bank years ago with a woman who now works at the I.M.F., according to a person with direct knowledge of the relationship.

Interviews and documents paint a picture of the fund as an institution whose sexual norms and customs are markedly different from those of Washington, leaving its female employees vulnerable to harassment. The laws of the United States do not apply inside its walls, and until earlier this month the I.M.F.’s own rules contained an unusual provision that some experts and former officials say has encouraged managers to pursue the women who work for them: “Intimate personal relationships between supervisors and subordinates do not, in themselves, constitute harassment.”

“It’s sort of like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’; the rules are more like guidelines,” said Carmen M. Reinhart, a prominent female economist who served as the I.M.F.’s deputy director for research from 2001 to 2003. “That sets the stage, I think, for more risk-taking.”

Between this story and Angela Merkel’s unexpected praise today, signs are looking pretty positive for the Christine Lagarde candidacy.  

Update: Dervis says he’s not in the running

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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