Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Joan MacNaughton CB

BSc Physics, 1972

'Don’t underestimate what you can achieve in life, if you’re determined enough.'

Chair of The Climate Group and of the Advisory Board of the New Energy Coalition of Europe


Joan is an influential figure in international energy and climate policy. Her roles at The Climate Group and the New Energy Coalition of Europe are focused on climate change and sustainable energy. She is a member of several Advisory Boards and is a Non-Executive Director of En+ Group plc and the James Hutton Institute.

She has held a wide range of positions in government including Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister and Director General of Energy. Joan is a founding board member of POWERful women, which aims to increase the number of senior women in the energy sector, playing a key role in shaping UK and international energy policy. In 2006 she was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath by HM The Queen.

What do you think is the biggest challenge women are facing today?

Not sure if it’s the biggest challenge women are facing today, but one difficult issue is that they don’t know whether they’re dealing with a man who buys into female equality, as very many of them do, or not. When I was a student, by and large most male students were broadly in the right place but a high proportion of older men (with some honourable exceptions) just hadn’t seen the light. This at least gave you some cues on how to approach individuals.

Is there a woman you look to for inspiration?

A woman I really admire: Mary Robinson, former President of the Republic of Ireland. Although herself a committed Catholic and personally opposed to abortion, she campaigned for it to be decriminalised on the grounds that it was not an appropriate issue to be subject to the criminal law, but should be left to personal conscience. An impressive lawyer, stateswoman and subsequently campaigner for action on climate change as well as holding a senior UN post on Human Rights. Passionate but intellectually rigorous.

What advice would you give to female students and alumnae?

Don’t underestimate what you can achieve in life, if you’re determined enough.