Barbara Judge profile: ‘the best-connected woman in Britain’

Barbara Judge, 71, once described as the “best-connected woman in Britain,” is a New York-born former banker, lawyer and senior business figure, with a long list of non-executive directorships.

Having graduated from New York University School of Law where she described herself as “a bit of a leftie,” she initially worked as a corporate lawyer before becoming the youngest member of the US Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington at the age of 33. She then moved to Hong Kong to work for the British merchant bank Samuel Montagu, becoming its first female director.

Later she became executive director of Rupert Murdoch’s News International and relocated to London where she founded investment firm Private Equity Investor in the 1990s.

A strong advocate of nuclear power, Lady Judge became chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 2004. During her tenure as head of the UK’s Pension Protection Fund between 2010 and 2016, she was also drafted in by Tokyo Electric Power Company to help assure the residents of Fukushima that its reactors were safe after the nuclear disaster, and was hailed as “Japan’s nuclear saviour”.

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Her many roles have included business ambassador on behalf of the former government department, UK Trade & Investment, and deputy chairman of the UK Financial Reporting Council; she was awarded a CBE in 2010 for services to the nuclear and financial services industries.

However, just months after she became the Institute of Directors’ first female chair in February 2015, she faced calls to quit because of her involvement with the coal company responsible for America’s worst coalmine disaster in 40 years. She sat on committees overseeing safety and corporate governance at Massey Energy when a coal dust explosion killed 29 workers in West Virginia in 2010.

Before the explosion, institutional investors and union groups had warned that Judge, who held multiple directorships, would not be able to devote enough time to addressing Massey’s already considerable safety issues.

In 2016, Judge claimed long maternity breaks were bad for women, and suggested those taking a year off were at risk of losing their jobs. She herself took 12 days off work when her son was born.

She was married to former Conservative party fundraiser Sir Paul Judge, who died last year.

She sits on the board of the charity Dementia UK and has been involved with the Royal Academy of Arts as chair of Benjamin West Group Patrons.