February 7, 2014

“You need two things in life: a sponsor and a mentor.” This was one of several insightful pieces of advice passed down from Lady Barbara Judge, CBE, to 15 diverse women students from across the Columbia University community. Lady Judge’s intimate 90-minute talk on January 30 — the inaugural event in the Center on Global Energy Policy’s Women in Energy (WIE) program — included an enthusiastic question-and-answer session and covered a broad range of challenges that confront women who are looking to have impact in energy-related careers.

A trained commercial lawyer with both British and U.S. citizenship, Lady Judge has had an usually broad and distinguished international career as a senior executive, chair, and non-executive director in both the private and public sectors, including service as the youngest appointed commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Just prior to the WIE event, Lady Judge — who is also former chairman of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority and currently deputy chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Nuclear Reform and Monitoring Committee (as well as the head of its nuclear safety task force) — had given a compelling public lecture to over 150 guests on the core challenges to nuclear energy since the 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima, which was triggered by the Tokohu earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

A fascinating storyteller with a clear perspective on the challenges that women face while building a professional career, Lady Judge galvanized and inspired female students from Columbia schools including SIPA, the College, Engineering, and others.

“Lady Judge is a great example of how women can emerge as leaders in the energy industry,” said participant Celine Rottier, a student in SIPA’s MIA program and a former offshore technologist for Repsol. “There are too few success stories today. In an industry that is thirsty for talent, as Lady Judge pointed out, women around the world should seize the opportunity to unleash their potential, and lead boldly and decisively.”

Bridget Hardy, who is pursuing an MPA, said Lady Judge “made me feel confident about my skills, knowledge and potential. I can’t wait to get going on the job search.”

Echoing this sentiment was Yinghuang Ji, a PhD candidate in earth and environmental engineering who is also affiliated with the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy. “Her stories and perspectives inspired me a lot, and also made me more confident in pursuing a career path in energy. I would definitely recommend this kind of events to other students and would like to participate more in the future.”

In recognizing the limited number of women in energy and energy-related fields, especially in senior-level positions, the Center on Global Energy Policy intends for the Women in Energy program to help fill a fundamental gap for female students who wish to pursue careers in the energy sector by hosting events where students not only have the opportunity to directly interact with senior women role models, but also meet and connect with one another.

Given the multidisciplinary nature of energy, many participants felt it was a valuable chance to develop relationships across schools and sectors early on in their careers. As part of the WIE program, the Center plans to hold additional events such as the one with Lady Judge, while also hopefully expanding the program in the future to include direct mentorship and career opportunities.

“We hope that the students who participated can help serve as early ambassadors for our WIE program,” said Jason Bordoff, CGEP’s founding director. “This is very much a program for the students, and we want it to grow and evolve in a way that is most beneficial for them.”