Dame Stephanie Shirley: Why do ambitious women have flat heads?
Dame Stephanie Shirley - Entrepreneur and philanthropist
In 1962, Dame Stephanie "Steve" Shirley founded Freelance Programmers, a software firm with innovative work practices -- and (mainly) women employees. Full bio
software company back in the 1960s,
of an autistic child?
now given away serious money?
I got onto a train in Vienna,
nearly 10,000 Jewish children
of my nine-year-old sister
what was going on.
why am I going there?"
I was helped by generous strangers.
to be later reunited
with them again.
since that miserable day
who has lost their human rights can feel.
that was worth saving.
of the first such startups in Britain.
a company for women,
because software, at that time,
certainly not from a woman.
of the universities with decent degrees,
who'd left the industry on marriage,
going back into the workforce
new, flexible work methods:
and eventually, co-ownership
into the hands of the staff
or the only woman that.
on the stock exchange,
without my husband's permission.
the battles for the right to work
from people at work or in society
the conventions of the time,
from "Stephanie" to "Steve"
before anyone realized
and that's precisely what it was,
on the dining room table,
of 100 dollars in today's terms,
by borrowing against the house.
the market was commercial --
which I found rather boring.
operational research work,
that interested me
that was valued by the clients:
lots and lots of stock control.
part-time nature of the staff
one of the very first to do so.
that the programming
of Supersonic Concord
of women working in their own homes.
"trust the staff" approach
"Do you have access to a telephone?"
maddeningly hard-to-control activity,
them over the years,
to develop flowcharts
usually machine code,
by mail to a data center
paper tape or card
in order to verify it.
near a computer.
came in in Britain
our pro-female policies.
it only works because it's small."
they accepted, "Yes, it is sizable now,
valued at over three billion dollars,
by the shape of our heads:
away from the kitchen sink.
two secrets of success:
and people that you like;
very, very carefully.
"My husband's an angel,"
"You're lucky," she said,
we'd all be millionaires.
of family trauma and indeed, crisis.
a beautiful, contented baby.
and he never spoke again.
house of the first charity that I set up
a groundbreaking Prior's Court school
again, all for autism.
in services, I tried to help.
and making new things happen.
think tank for autism.
to the industry from which it stems,
the Oxford Internet Institute
focuses not on the technology,
and ethical issues of the Internet.
without his need of me.
would quickly come and find me.
for an enterprise,
self-belief and determination,
that borders on the obsessive.
that I'm a workaholic.
do it properly and in humility.
when I'd rather be doing something else.
never going to be like today,
About the speaker:Dame Stephanie Shirley - Entrepreneur and philanthropist
In 1962, Dame Stephanie "Steve" Shirley founded Freelance Programmers, a software firm with innovative work practices -- and (mainly) women employees.
Why you should listen
In the austerity of post-World War II England, jobs were few, and opportunities for women to earn a wage were even fewer. So, on her dining room table, Stephanie Shirley founded the kind of company she'd like to work for -- one that posed challenging, rewarding tasks, built around flexible work rules that made it possible to have a real life. Her software company, Freelance Programmers made her one of the richest women in England (and one of the few to have earned her own money). Initially employing only women -- Shirley often bid for contracts as "Steve" to compete in the male-dominated industry -- the company was eventually valued at $3 billion, while 70 of the staff became millionaires when it floated on the stock market.
But money wasn't Shirley's object. "A lot of people go into business to make money," she told the Guardian. "I really didn't; I went in with a mission for women. Conversely, I was determined never, ever to be poor again." Freelance Programmers became the FI Group became Xansa; it was acquired by Steria in 2007.
Shirley retired in 1993, but she hasn't stopped pushing for progress in the fields she loves. For instance, she works tirelessly to push forward research into autism spectrum disorders, as well as to study and improve the IT industry and the role of the internet in society. She told the Guardian, "I do get committed, and I don't just give my money; I try to give of myself."
Dame Stephanie Shirley | Speaker | TED.com