As a woman in a man's world, I have had to adapt my career. From an early age I wanted to be a lawyer, but my stuffy grammar school for girls was horrified at this - that was for boys. While it stiffened my resolve to read law at Bristol University, I did indeed find it difficult for a woman to be a professional lawyer, so I hatched plan B, to qualify as a chartered accountant, become a barrister and take the Revenue Bar by storm. This plan helped to keep up my motivation to succeed, but I discovered an aptitude for accountancy when I joined KPMG, where I spent 30 largely happy years until the House of Lords beckoned last year. There is not much that I would really want to change, although I often wonder if I should have done more to modernise the NHS finances during my three-year spell as financial director. Most people do not realise that the finance function had to bear a huge burden of implementing reform, and I think that any more change might have broken the camel's back.
I have spent five years on secondment at both the Treasury and the NHS. I also became the first woman president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. My only big regret is that I believed a teacher who insisted I had no aptitude for languages. I really should have mastered two or three. I am quite sure that business success in the future will be linked to the ability to operate in several major business languages.