Dame Stephanie Shirley is a highly successful entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist. She was appointed the first British Government’s Honorary Ambassador for Philanthropy in 2009. Dame Shirley provides her audience with an inspirational insight into her own personal life and the important role philanthropy plays in making a difference to local charities. A much in demand keynote speaker at international conferences.
Dame Stephanie Shirley is a serial IT entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist. Born in Germany to Jewish parents, Dame Shirley escaped the Nazis in 1939 on a Kindertransport train to be raised by a couple in England. She turned hard work and a skill at maths into a computing career. She started what became Xansa on her dining room table with £6 in 1962 and turned it into tens of millions. 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. Xansa was acquired by Steria in 2007 and she now serves on Steria’s CSR Advisory Board.
Her election as the first woman president of the British Computer Society was followed by her election as Master of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, which became the 100th livery company to be formed in the City of London. During this period she was extensively quoted in the media and spoke regularly on platforms about the future development of information technology and its role in corporate strategy. She has personally set up companies, agencies, licensors etc. in Europe, the Middle East and USA and lectured and consulted world-wide including several addresses given in the UK Houses of Parliament, the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC and other prestigious institutions.
Dame Shirley has served on the corporate boards of Tandem Computers Inc. and the John Lewis Partnership plc. She also serves on the European Advisory Board of Korn/Ferry International, 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 the founder of two charities the ‘Kingwood Trust’, a charity that provides long term care for adults with profound learning disabilities and the ‘Shirley Foundation’. Shirley Foundation is one of the top 50 grantmaking foundations in the UK with £50m grants given over the past seven years. 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 focused on Autism Speaks 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.
She has been a trustee of Help the Aged, a Council member of the Industrial Society and since 1987 Patron of the Disablement Income Group.
She has been honoured with the OBE and received the US Presidential Pin in recognition of her work on Anglo-American Relations. She has been awarded the Gold Medal of the British Institute of Management for the originality of her thinking, in regard to the distributed office as an answer to new work patterns. In 2004 she was recognised with a UK Beacon Fellowship prize (“The Nobel Prize of the Charity World”) for investing strategically in new charities and ensuring her foundation will spend itself out after her death,
Dame Stephanie Shirley has also being awarded a number of honorary Fellowships and Doctorates of British Universities.