Dame Stephanie Shirley CH

Stephanie Shirley headshot

Position

IT Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

Dame Stephanie (Steve) Shirley CH, is a workplace revolutionary and successful IT entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist.

Her life story begins with her 1939 arrival in Britain as an unaccompanied Kindertransport refugee. In 1962, she started a software house, Freelance Programmers, that pioneered new work practices and changed the position of professional women, especially in hi-tech. She went on to create a global business and a personal fortune shared with her colleagues; she made 70 of her staff millionaires at no cost to anyone, but herself.

Since retiring in 1993, her focus has been increasingly on philanthropy based on her strong belief in giving back to society. In 2009/10 she served as the UK’s first ever national Ambassador for Philanthropy. Her charitable Shirley Foundation has initiated and funded a number of projects that are pioneering by nature and strategic in impact, totalling £67m to date, with a focus on IT and her late son’s disorder of autism.

Dame Stephanie's achievements have been highly recognised. In 2013, she was named by Woman’s Hour as one of the 100 most powerful women in Britain.  In 2014, the Science Council listed her as one of the Top 100 practising scientists in the UK. In 2015, Dame Stephanie was given the Women of the Year Special Award. Her TED Talk in 2015 to a standing ovation from more than a thousand of the world’s most recognised technical entrepreneurs, thinkers, creators and doers has received 2.6m views. In 2017, Dame Stephanie received a Companion of Honour, one of only 65 people worldwide to receive such a recognition.