Five Women Who Could Lead the World Bank

August 30, 2016

Last week the World Bank announced the process for choosing the next president of the organization. Minutes after midnight on the first day nominations were to be accepted, the US formally nominated the incumbent Jim Kim. Other nominations are possible in what is, allegedly, an “open, merit-based, and transparent” process (criteria agreed upon by the World Bank’s Board in April 2011 and promoted by CGD in 2012 through support for multiple candidates and open meetings with, and questions for, nominated candidates), but which will only be “open” for three weeks.

Here are five women who could ably lead the World Bank.

Sheryl Sandberg. American. COO at Facebook, Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, Chief of Staff for the US Treasury Secretary. Sheryl’s first job was at the World Bank, where she went to India on project missions. She has since been engaged in policy in the US, serving as the Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury, and in the private sector with two successful companies, as a Vice President at Google (and key to’s engagement in development) and as Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. She is also the founder of, a non-profit organization to help women succeed. She would bring to the table knowledge of the private sector, legendary management skills, political savvy and deep concern about development and social issues. Although she is American, any other country member of the World Bank could nominate her.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Nigerian. Minister of Finance of Nigeria, Managing Director of the World Bank. Ngozi has long and deep experience in the World Bank, having been a Managing Director. She has also been Minister of Finance in Nigeria on two occasions (2003-2006, 2011-2015). Given her experience, she understands the issues facing the Bank’s clients—developing country governments—intimately, and the issues facing the World Bank’s ability to deliver to those clients. (Ngozi is currently a CGD Board member and distinguished visiting fellow).

Kristalina Georgieva. Bulgarian. Vice President and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection for the European Commission, Vice President and Corporate Secretary for the World Bank. Kristalina was a fantastic manager at the World Bank and rose to the position of Vice President and Corporate Secretary, the position that handles the relationship between the Bank’s management and the Board. She then served in the European Commission and is now Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources. She has proven she can successfully manage in multinational organizations of different types, and was touted as a candidate to be Secretary General of the UN.

Nemat Shafik. American/British (Egyptian by birth). Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Permanent Secretary of Department for International Development (DFID). After a successful career as academic and staff at the World Bank (becoming at 36 the youngest-ever Vice President), Nemat moved to management of the UK’s development efforts, then did a stint at the IMF, and then returned to the Bank of England. She has demonstrated ability to manage policy and organizations in national governments and multilateral organizations.

Isabel Guerrero. Chilean. Vice President for the South Asia Region at the World Bank, Lecturer at Harvard and MIT. Isabel was consistently an innovative and reform-minded manager at the World Bank as a country director for key clients like Mexico and India. She ended her Bank career as Vice President for South Asia, responsible for a $39 billion portfolio. Since leaving the Bank, she has been teaching at MIT and Harvard Kennedy School and has founded a non-profit, IMAGO, to help grassroots development organizations scale up.

Any one of them would bring fresh perspectives and management skills to a World Bank currently beleaguered with challenges both internal (e.g. see the views of the Staff Association, former World Bank chief spokesperson Tim Callen's letter in the Financial Times, and CNN on the World Bank’s “crisis of leadership”) and external (e.g. the rise of the AIIB, institutional drift, financial viability).

I know all five personally. And I am an introvert. If I can name five female candidates just from my personal acquaintances, imagine how many more qualified and exciting candidates might emerge if there were a search. I don’t know Caroline Anstey, a previous Managing Director of the World Bank, or Indra Nooyi, the PepsiCo CEO from India, for instance, but both have been mentioned. I am confident that soliciting the views of people, groups, communities and governments would produce dozens of qualified women candidates, maybe even better than the five I happen to know.

Or, although all World Bank presidents so far have been male and the organization might benefit from a bit of the gender diversity that it preaches, it might just be that a male is the best candidate this time, too.

But this search and recruitment for the next leader of the World Bank apparently isn’t going to happen. The US Treasury, the largest shareholder, seems anxious to push Jim Kim through a truncated and accelerated reappointment rather than an “open, merit-based, and transparent” global search. It would be good for the World Bank and good for the world—and even good for Jim Kim too, if he prevails—if other countries nominated strong candidates for this important position in development.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.