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|Dame Steve Shirley|
Shirley at the Enterprise Tuesday presentation, Cambridge University, February 2009
16 September 1933 |
|Known for||Philanthropy and founding the IT company, F.I.Group (now Xansa)|
|Institutions||F.I.Group (Xansa), Chairperson of Autism Speaks and Shirley Foundation|
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Dame Stephanie "Steve" Shirley, DBE, FREng, FRSA, FBCS (born 16 September 1933, Dortmund, Germany) is a British businesswoman and philanthropist. She originally arrived in Britain as an unaccompanied Kindertransport child refugee. She was placed with foster parents in Sutton Coldfield and was later re-united with her biological parents, but later claimed she "never really bonded with them".
In 1962, Shirley founded the software company F.I. Group (later Xansa, since acquired by Steria). She was concerned with creating work opportunities for women with dependants, and predominantly employed women, only 3 out of 300-odd programmers were male, until the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 made that illegal. She adopted the name "Steve" to help her in the male-dominated business world. In 1993, she officially retired at the age of 60 and has taken up philanthropy since then.
The Shirley Foundation, based in the UK was set up by Dame Stephanie Shirley, in 1986 with a substantial gift to establish a charitable trust fund. Its mission is facilitation and support of pioneering projects with strategic impact in the field of autism spectrum disorders with particular emphasis on medical research. The fund has supported many projects through grants and loans including: Kingwood which supports 67 people with autism and Asperger's to enjoy full and active lives, Prior's Court is the foundation's largest benefaction with a residential school for 60 autistic pupils and Young Adult Centre for 18 autistic students, Autism Cymru, Wales' national charity, Autism99, the first online autism conference attended by 165,000 people from 33 difference countries.
In 1987, she gained the Freedom of the City of London. She was President of the British Computer Society from 1989 to 1990. In 1985, she was awarded a Recognition of Information Technology Award. In 1999 she received the Mountbatten Medal.
She has reportedly donated most of her £150m wealth (from the internal sale to the company staff and later the flotation of F.I. Group) to charity during her retirement. Beneficiaries include the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists and the Oxford Internet Institute, part of the Oxford University, through the Shirley Foundation. Her late son Giles (1963–1998) was autistic and she became an early member of the National Autistic Society. She has instigated and funded research in this field, for example through the Autism Research Centre led by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen.
She addresses many conferences and lectures around the world and is in frequent contact with parents, carers and those with autism and the related Asperger's Syndrome. Her autistic son died following an epileptic seizure at the age of 35. In July 2008, she gave a biographical talk about her life and her ideals which is available online from Gresham College titled "Give and Take".
In 1991, Shirley was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Buckingham, since when she has been so honoured by 23 English and 4 Scottish Universities.
From May 2009 until May 2010, Dame Stephanie served as the UK's Ambassador for Philanthropy, a government appointment aimed at giving philanthropists a "voice".
Appearing on BBC Radio 2's Good Morning Sunday with Clare Balding in 2013, Dame Stephanie discussed why she had given away more than £67 million of her personal wealth to different projects. In her 2012 memoirs Let IT Go, she writes "I do it because of my personal history; I need to justify the fact that my life was saved."
In January 2014 the Science Council named Dame Stephanie as one of the "Top 100 practising scientists" in the UK.
- Shirley, S. and Askwith, R. (2012), Let IT Go: The Entrepreneur Turned Ardent Philanthropist, Andrews UK Limited, ISBN 1-782-3428-26 
- Dame Stephanie Shirley official website
- mi2g biography (PDF)
- Listen to an oral history interview with Dame Stephanie Shirley – a life story interview recorded for the National Life Stories project Oral History of British Science at the British Library
- IEEE oral history
- "Biography – Steve Shirley website". Retrieved 17 April 2007.
- "Growing influence". Guardian. 14 January 2004. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- Shirley, Stephanie (2012). Let IT Go. United Kingdom: Lightning Source UK Ltd. p. 148. ISBN 978-1782342823.
- "Henley Standard article on the Sue Ryder Awards". Retrieved 20 December 2007.
- The London Gazette: . 13 June 1980. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
- The London Gazette: . 31 December 1999. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
- "The Mountbatten Medalists". IET. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
- Desert Island Discs, 23 May 2010, BBC Radio 4
- Enterprise Tuesday lecture, Cambridge 3 February 2009
- "Timeline – Steve Shirley website". Retrieved 4 February 2009.
- "Stephanie Shirley biography". The Beacon Fellowship. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- "Dame Stephanie Shirley's UKAF Autism Lecture in Redbridge, England (Medical News Today)". Retrieved 20 December 2007.
- "Dame Stephanie Shirley". BBC. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Steve Shirley" at BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour Power list
- Levin, Angela (5 November 2012). "Philanthropist Stephanie Shirley: 'You can only spend so much'". Women's Business. The Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 23 December 2013.