Trailblazing businesswomen Lady Barbara Judge, the first female chair of the Institute of Directors (IoD), has died aged 73.

American-born Lady Judge broke glass ceilings all her life. She became the youngest partner of a New York law firm in 1978, after being told that being a corporate lawyer was “for tough men, not you”, and two years later she became the youngest ever official of the US markets regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

She has previously said that when she asked how she had been chosen by the New York law firm, she was told that the president wanted a woman, a securities lawyer and a partner of a big law firm and “was told they could only find six in the whole of America”. 

She later switched to banking and became the first female director of Britain’s Samuel Montagu bank, going on to move to London in 1993 to become a director of Rupert Murdoch’s News International. She was chairman of the Pension Protection Fund from 2010 to 2016 and became the first female chair of the IoD in 2015. 

Described as one of the best-connected women in Britain, she has said the job that really changed her life was joining the board of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, where she later became chairman and lobbied hard for new UK nuclear plants. She was also hired to help Japan’s Tepco rebuild its reputation after the Fukushima disaster. 

Her son Lloyd Thomas announced her death on LinkedIn on Monday and described her as an “inspiration”. She died of pancreatic cancer days after posting about her battle with the disease on her website, where she described how she was initially misdiagnosed

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