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Inside IMF: Female staff call for a woman at helm

By Nina dos Santos, CNN
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Will a woman head the IMF?
  • Exclusive internal e-mails show female staffers calling for change at IMF
  • Follows a New York Times story on male culture dominating the IMF
  • Female staffer: "Would be naïve to pretend that there is no glass ceiling"
  • Spokesman: IMF "is not satisfied with the level of diversity at senior management level"

Read the full email exchanges at the International Monetary Fund.

(CNN) -- As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prepares to replace its disgraced former managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, e-mails obtained exclusively by CNN offer a unique insight into the mood among staff.

While Strauss-Kahn was busy penning a heartfelt goodbye letter sent out on Sunday, documents reveal some of the fund's female employees had already been calling for change: namely, for a woman to run the IMF.

Strauss-Kahn resigned last week as head of the IMF in the face of sexual assault charges. In a note to staff, obtained by CNN, the economist said he is confident of being exonerated of accusations that he attacked a hotel maid in New York, but he could not "accept that the Fund -- and you dear colleagues -- should in any way have to share my own personal nightmare. So, I had to go."

The fund is scheduled to begin accepting nominations for his replacement, with a battle shaping up between Europe and the developing world. The United Kingdom said over the weekend it would back French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde for the position; a move that will likely appeal to female staff at the IMF, who complained in e-mails obtained by CNN of the male culture at the global economic organization.

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The notes among numerous female workers at the IMF were exchanged late last week in response to a New York Times article entitled "At IMF, Men on Prowl and Women on Guard."

The New York Times published an open letter signed by 676 female IMF workers protesting the piece, yet internal communications paint a different picture -- with some of the women at the fund bemoaning a "male dominated workplace," where "gender stats speak for themselves."

One female worker asks whether the IMF would be better off with a woman in charge "to end such a negative impression." The writer tells colleagues, "we now have a good opportunity to voice it out."

Another e-mail reads "would be naïve to pretend that there is no glass ceiling."

Responding to the leaked e-mails, IMF spokesman Bill Murray told CNN that the fund "is not satisfied with the level of diversity at senior management level and is working to improve this."

On Monday, the IMF told staff it now aims to increase the number of women in senior roles by a further 10% --to 30%-- by 2014.

The fund said Friday that it aims to complete the selection process by June 30.

Strauss-Kahn was accused of trying to rape a maid last week in his suite at the Sofitel hotel in New York on May 14, charges he denies.

The ex-IMF chief was released from Rikers Island jail on Friday and is staying with his wife, Anne Sinclair. Before his arrest, he was considered a likely candidate for president of France.

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