This week IMF managing director Christine Lagarde spoke at the National Democratic Institute in Washington, DC about the need to empower women. She framed the talk around "the three L's." Learning. Labor. And Leadership: This brings me to my third ‘L” today. I have talked about learning and labor—the final link in the chain is leadership, letting women rise to the top on their strength of their innate abilities and talents. We all know the problem—across all fields of work, the higher you climb, the fewer women you see. The evidence is painfully obvious. Look at the world of business—only 4 percent of CEOs in the Standard and Poor’s 500 company list are women. Plus, as this Institute has documented, only a fifth of parliamentary seats across the world are held by women. Less than 10 percent of countries have female leaders. Here is the irony, though: when women get the chance to lead, they actually lead better. We have ample evidence of this. For example, one study shows that the Fortune 500 firms with the best track record in raising women to prominent positions are 18-69 percent more profitable than median firms in their area. Women are also far less likely to engage in the kind of reckless risk-taking behavior that sparked the global financial crisis. For example, an experiment from the investment community in the 1990s shows that men trade 45 percent more than women, and are more likely to lose big. Is it really any coincidence that, while the men were cheerleading, it was the women who were worrying most about financial sector excess and misbehavior before the crisis? I am thinking of women like Sheila Bair, Brooksley Born, Janet Yellen, and Elizabeth Warren. Too often, they were ignored and dismissed—but they were proven right. We also know that women are good managers and good crisis leaders. For example, a study of over 7000 leaders showed that women fared better in 12 of 16 competencies in 12 of 15 sectors. Another recent study shows that women are often parachuted in to save companies in deep trouble—although they are also more likely to be fired from these positions, allegedly because of the risk taken in hiring them. Read the full speech here .