Dame Stephanie Shirley (84) arrived in Britain in 1939 as an unaccompanied child refugee from Nazi Europe. She took her maths degree at evening classes.
She is now the most successful tech entrepreneur you never heard of. She founded a pioneering software house back in 1962 as a company of women, a company for women. Its eventual flotation led to 70 of her 8,500 staff becoming millionaires, and the company was co-owned by the staff with a value of around $3bn when it was acquired in 2007.
Her entrepreneurial zeal and zest also led to four sustainable notforprofits: The Oxford Internet Institute (which focuses on the internet’s social, economic, legal and ethical aspects) and three in the field of autism (her late son’s disorder): Autism at Kingwood (support services), Prior’s Court Foundation (education) and Autistica (medial research).
This ardent venture philanthropy has involved social investments totally £68m to 100 projects, many of which she also initiated.
Her TED Talk has already been viewed two million times and filming starts on her memoir Let IT Go next year when she will also celebrate her diamond (60 years) wedding with her physicist husband.
Dame Stephanie Shirley is a highly successful entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist. Having arrived in Britain as an unaccompanied child refugee in 1939, she started what became Xansa on her dining room table with £6 in 1962. It grew to over £370 million in revenues and a public company quoted on the London Stock Exchange before it's acuqisition by Steria in 2007.
Dame Stephanie Shirley is a highly successful entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist.
Having arrived in Britain as an unaccompanied child refugee in 1939, she started what became Xansa on her dining room table with £6 in 1962. In 25 years as its Chief Executive she developed it into a leading business technology group, pioneering new work practices and changing the position of professional women (especially in hi-tech) along the way. In 2007 it was acquired by Steria, having now grown to be a public company with revenues of over £370 million.
Since retiring in 1993, she has served on corporate Boards such as Tandem Computers Inc. (1992-7), the John Lewis Partnership plc (1999-2001) and the European Advisory Board of Korn/Ferry International (2001-4). But her focus has been increasingly on philanthropy based on her strong belief in business people giving something back to society. Her main interests are autism (her autistic son Giles died age 35 in 1998) and making better use of IT in the voluntary sector. She is also much in demand as a keynote speaker at international conferences.
Her charitable Shirley Foundation is now one of the top 50 grant-giving foundations in the UK with well over £50m grants given. It has initiated and funded a number of projects that are pioneering by nature, strategic in impact and significant in money terms. Current activity is focussed on Autistica in the UK and internationally, dedicated to fund research into the causes of autism and hence halve the global cost of the disorder by 2020. Dame Stephanie was also a major donor to the Oxford Internet Institute.
Xansa was acquired by Steria in 2007, Steve served on Steria's CSR Advisory Board in 2008/9. She was appointed by the UK government to serve as the national Ambassador for Philanthropy in 2009/10.
Dame Stephanie Shirley published her deeply inspiring memoir, Let IT Go, which charts her life from her time as a child in Germany and arrival in England as an unaccompanied Kindertransport refugee through to her retirement and dedication to charity. It is an amazing read which will take you through the entire range of emotions - from happiness at the success of her original company Freelance Programmers through to the ultimate sadness of losing her only child.
Copies of the book will be available on the day for a £10 donation.
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