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First Female Chair For Institute Of Directors

Posted on February 12, 2015 at 4:55 PM

Well, it's about time. The UK's Institute of Directors (IOD) was founded in 1903, over a hundred years ago. In 2015 it has appointed its first female Chair - Lady Barbara Judge.

Lady Judge: Photo courtesy IOD

The IOD is a professional institute that promotes directors, involves itself in the corporate governance debate and is not allied to any political party. It has a 'to die for' address in central London in the heart of St James's, on Pall Mall. Since Simon Walker took over as Director General in October 2011, there has been a breath of fresh air blowing through its large windows.

Mr Walker has been outspoken - unusually so in his condemnation last December of BG Group's recommended £25m pay deal for its incoming CEO, Helge Lund. Mr Walker called it "excessive, inflammatory and contrary to the principles of good corporate governance. 

One suspects he felt it was a case of just being pushed that bit too far.

Lady Judge, meanwhile, brings to the IOD a glittering international career as a senior executive, chair and non-executive director in both the public and private sectors. A trained commercial lawyer with both British and American citizenship, she is that rare beast in 2015: a person of substantial achievement who has largely stayed out of the 'women' debate.

Somehow she has also managed to remain a separate entity from her husband - Sir Paul Judge - and his achievements as well as his tribulations around ENRC.

Here I would like to say that I know them both. I know Sir Paul Judge as I served for thtree years on the first Alumni Advisory Board set up by Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Alison Richard and was Deputy Chair to his chairing the Communications committee - and I have known Lady Judge only in passing in my capacity as both a journalist - but also in a previous life as a headhunter.

The good lady puts everyone else to shame when it comes to networking. Not everyone loves her because of it.

A member of the IOD since 1985, Lady Judge is currently Chair of the Pension Protection Fund and the Energy Instiute of University College London. She was previously Chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Deputy Chair of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and a Commissioner of the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

All of which leads me to think : Watch Out, all you directors out there.

"Company directors have never been in a position of greater responsibility. The complexity of modern business and the duties placed on directors mean that they need to possess a wide range of skills and experience. Public and political scrutiny is also intense, so our members must continue to make the case for ethical and successful business through their own behaviour" says Lady Judge today.

"I want to cement the IOD's reputation as the home of good governance, where directors and entrepreneurs are trained to the highest standards and can continue to learn from other business leaders throughoutt their careers" she adds.

Fittingly for the desirable pursuit of diversity, Lady Judge's appointment means that we now have a South African born man and an American born woman at the head of the IOD.

I have also had the (completely unexpected) pleasure of finding myself next to Mr Walker at a wedding in Kent, and I can attest to the fact that he has a lot of character.

Looking at the photograph chosen by Lady Judge for the IOD website (also above) I think you would have to agree that 'character' is not something she lacks.

And yet we struggle every day in 2015 to reconcile the notion of individual character - male or female - in business. Even as we set up 'role models', we dictate a template, rather than listening to the individual story and best deploying their strengths for a business.

Let's hope that this new combination at the IOD helps us with that - and in doing so it should result in better corporate governance. 

Categories: Women, Chairmen, Diversity