As a survivor of the latest French cabinet reshuffle, minister of economic affairs Christine Lagarde found time to deliver an electrifying speech to international female chief executives in London.

The “lady who is not for reshuffle” – as described by Financial Times editor Lionel Barber – noted at the FT Women at the Top conference that one in four boards of UK-quoted groups were still exclusively male.

She said the Baker & McKenzie law firm where she was chairman had only 9 per cent female partner representation when she joined. Over five years this only improved to 15 per cent – “that is too long”.

Madame Lagarde said she was inspired by Aung San Suu Kyi in her three-stage mantra: Don’t give up; reach out, and keep up; and grit your teeth and smile. Blackstone banker John Studzinski flattered Madame Lagarde, with a remark on women’s ability to master cross-cultural nuances. The 55-year-old minister acknowledged his compliment by addressing him as Mr Blackstone, noting her years in business exceeded his – “but not by much though”.

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