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.
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.
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.