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Headshot of Lady Barbara Judge

Lady Barbara Judge

The career of the IoD’s chairman

Once described as the ‘best-connected woman in Britain’, Lady Barbara Judge has had a long and very distinguished career in law and banking before becoming the IoD's first female chair.

The early years

Born in New York

Grew up in Saddle Rock, New York. Her mother was Marcia Singer who created a pioneering university course at the New York Institute of Technology called World of Work for Women.

“She taught women to work; not because they were poor or alone, divorced or single, not any of that, [but] because they had a brain and they should use it and they should earn their own money, because money was independence and women should be independent."

Lady Barbara Judge graduation picture

Graduates from New York University School of Law (NYUSL)

Graduates from NYUSL with the highest honours and also becomes editor of New York University Law Review. “I was a bit of a leftie, you know, demonstrating against Vietnam, that sort of thing."

First among equals


Makes history in Washington

At the age of 33, Barbara Thomas becomes the youngest person, and only the second women, to be made a member of US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington, DC. She is appointed by US President Jimmy Carter and persuades Tokyo Stock Exchange to open its doors to foreign members.

Lady Barbara Judge in merchant bank office

'My greatest achievement'

After the birth of her son, A. Lloyd Thomas, she resigns from the SEC and moves to Hong Kong to become the first female director of British merchant bank Samuel Montagu & Co. Four years later, she returns to New York to become senior vice president of Bankers Trust International Banking.

Lady Barbara Judge holding her son

First female director of Samuel Montagu

Moves to Hong Kong to start new role with the British merchant bank. She later recalls "At the beginning, it was hard - these men didn't want a woman parachuted in. But after a while, you started making money for the bank and they liked you better. In Hong Kong, you are what your job is. It didn't matter how American I look, or act or sound - I was a director of a British bank. So I slotted in."

Picture of Lady Barbara Judge from her time with Samuel Montagu, 1983

Back to the Big Apple

Appointed as the first female director of a merchant bank when she joins Banker Trust International Banking as senior VP.

The move to the UK


Joins News International

Becomes executive director of Rupert Murdoch’s News International, moving to London one year later. Also during the 1990s, she founds investment company Private Equity Investor plc.

Entrance to News International offices, London

Appointed as chair of UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)

She had previously spent two years as a director at UKAEA.

Lady Barbara Judge speaking as chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority

‘Is this the best connected woman in Britain?’

The Daily Mail poses the question in a profile, which also says “At the heart of the British Establishment resides a wraithlike American blonde called Barbara Thomas Judge. Lady Judge, a lawyer, has more jobs than seems possible. Name a board and she is on it; find a charity and she will be associated with it.”

Portraits, pensions and plaudits


Chairman of Pension Protection Fund

Also takes up the the roles of public member of International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants and deputy chairman of UK Financial Reporting Council.


Awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)

Lady Judge is awarded the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the nuclear and financial services industries. In the same year she makes BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour 100 Most Powerful Women list.

Lady Barbara Judge's Commander of the Order of the British Empire medal

Appears in the National Portrait Gallery

Her portrait is taken by Alexander McIntyre whose other subjects have included Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Michael Palin and Lord Owen.

Portrait of Lady Barbara Judge at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Becomes ‘Japan’s nuclear saviour’

Appointed dep. chairman of the Tokyo Electric Power Company new Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee. It comes in the wake of Tepco’s heavily criticised response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. A report in The Independent hails her as ‘Japan’s nuclear saviour, adding that ‘before the accident, she says there was too close a relationship between the nuclear regulator and the operators: "That culture must change. Before, they used to be afraid to say that anything was wrong."

Lady Barbara Judge speaking as dep. chairman of the Tokyo Electric Power Company

Reappointed as chairman of Pension Protection Fund

Minister for Pensions Steve Webb says: “Her experienced leadership and enthusiasm are hugely valued, and key to the future success of this important organisation."


Makes history again as the first female chair of the Institute of Directors (IoD)

Becomes the IoD’s first female chairman. In less than a year in the role, Lady Judge has encouraged more women to join the organisation and pushed for older workers to carry on working.

“Retirement, to me, in today’s world is unfortunate,” she says. “There are lots of lawyers or accountants who get forced out because they’re in their 50s or 60. I want them to have a role to help younger people by being more than just mentors.”

She has also worked for more young entrepreneurs to join the IoD. “I am hoping the IoD can become a place where they can feel comfortable,” she adds. “The IoD can be a forum for entrepreneurs and perhaps even a mini Silicon Valley.”

Lady Barbara Judge, Chairman and Simon Walker, Director General, of the IoD

Dementia UK

Lady Judge is appointed as a board director of Dementia UK - the charity intent  on improving the quality of life for dementia patients. "My mother (pictured) left her job at the age of 88 and got dementia almost immediately. I want to devote my charitable efforts, my non-business time, whatever I can give, to the cause of dementia and Alzheimer's. If we all attack this problem I hope we can solve it"

Lady Barbara Judge with her mother

Speaks out on the role of women in EU debate

In a comment piece for the Daily Telegraph she stresses the importance of women in the EU referendum debate and states that “The EU debate is far too important to be seen as the reserve of political obsessives, dominated by the usual characters who have been talking about it for years. We need a wide discussion on the issues of jobs, migration and where decisions affecting the UK should be taken, involving people from all parts of society. You cannot do that without women being front and centre.

Lady Barbara Judge speaking on the phone
The end

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