Dame Stephanie Shirley CH is a successful IT entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist.
Having arrived in Britain as an unaccompanied child refugee in 1939, she started what became Xansa plc (now part of the Sopra Group) 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. Her Dameship in the Millennium honours was for services to IT.
She was awarded the Order of Companions of Honour in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 2017.
She served on corporate Boards such as Tandem Computers Inc. (1992-7), the John Lewis Partnership plc (1999-2001) and AEA Technology - previously the Atomic Energy Authority (1992-2000). Her philanthropy is based on her strong belief in giving back to society. She focuses on IT and autism (her autistic son Giles died age 35 in 1998).
Dame Stephanie was the first woman Master of the IT livery company; the first woman President of the chartered British Computer Society; and the UK’s Ambassador for Philanthropy in 2009/10.
Her charitable Shirley Foundation spent out in October 2018. It made over £67m grants and initiated a number of projects that are pioneering by nature, strategic in impact and significant in money terms. This included three autism charities: Autism at Kingwood (support); Prior’s Court (education); and Autistica (research) which together employ over 1000 staff. In 2001 she co-founded the Oxford Internet Institute which focuses on the social, economic, legal and ethical issues – not the technology – of this network of networks.
Aged 86 she remains married to her first husband Derek.
To find out more about Dame Stephanie, see her memoir Let It Go.