Lady Barbara Judge
© Ole Jørgen Bratland

Lady Barbara Judge, 67, who has held many senior executive roles, is chairman of the Pension Protection Fund and was chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority from 2004 to 2010. She is deputy chair of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and the head of its Task Force on Nuclear Safety.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be an actress. But my mother said: “We are not having any starving actresses in this family. If you want to act, you can act in front of a jury – why not be a lawyer?”

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

A state school in the US. I went to the University of Pennsylvania, where I majored in medieval history and wrote my thesis on “bad King John”, then New York University law school.

Who is your mentor?

My mother, no question. She taught me anything is possible if you work hard.

How physically fit are you?

Reasonably. I exercise for 10 minutes every morning but I fear this isn’t enough to counter my indulgence in cookies and ice-cream. I love desserts.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

It’s the effort one puts in that really matters.

King John at Runnymede
Education: medieval history, with a thesis on 'bad King John' © Getty Images

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

Yes, when I was young – but I never saw the results.

How politically committed are you?

I am committed to good government.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

Sure. It’s part of being a responsible citizen. And I particularly believe in energy conservation. It’s vital to ensure the world has enough energy to fulfil its economic needs and enough light and heat for people to be educated.

Do you have more than one home?

I do: an apartment in London and a house in France.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A lifetime supply of the Nokia 6310 phone. It’s the best mobile phone that was ever made: very resilient with a very long-life battery.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Food. I love everything from street food to Michelin-starred food.

In what place are you happiest?

With my mother, particularly going back to America for Thanksgiving and being with my extended family.

What ambitions do you still have?

To die at my desk. For me, working is a privilege.

What drives you on?

I particularly like working with women. Women should help other women – they have a responsibility to do that. And energy is such an important issue for the world to deal with.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

In a professional context, I was responsible for negotiating the opening of the Tokyo Stock Exchange to foreign members.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Not having a daughter. I think that’s why I’m so committed to helping other women.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

She would be pleased and probably a bit surprised. At 20, my goal was to become a partner in a major US law firm. At that time, there were very few female partners, if any.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I would put my hair back up in a bun and start all over again.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

It depends on the circumstances.

Do you believe in an afterlife?


If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

I think I’ve had a very up-and-down life but, as my son always says, it’s the trajectory that counts. On that basis: eight.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article