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“STEVE”


ABOUT


ALL


Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley


CH arrived in


England from Germany in 1939 as a five-year-old unaccompanied child


refugee, which she says gave her the drive to prove that her life had been worth saving.


She grew up fostered in the Midlands and near the Welsh border. At 18 she joined the Scientific Civil Service while studying for her mathematics degree at night school. She used her family nickname “Steve” to break through the male-dominated business world of the 1960s. She founded her software company Freelance Programmers with her supportive husband Derek in 1962 and helped break the glass ceiling by offering part-time employment to professional women with dependents. In 25 years as its chief executive she developed Freelance Programmers into a prolific business technology group. Her Dameship in the 2000 millennium honours list was for services to IT. She also served on corporate boards such as Tandem Computers Inc, the John Lewis Partnership and AEA Technology, previously the Atomic Energy Authority. The needs of their autistic son Giles prompted her to support strategic projects into understanding autism and to make better use of IT in the voluntary sector. Her business was renamed Xansa and became part of the Sopra Steria Group. Since retiring in 1993, she devoted the wealth gained from the sale of her IT firm and acumen to philanthropy, setting up six not-for-profits, of which four are in the field of autism. Founded in 1996, her flagship charity, the Shirley Foundation, is one of the top 50 grant-giving foundations in the UK. It has funded 100 pioneering projects that are pioneering by nature, strategic in impact and significant in money terms. This includes three autism charities: Autism at Kingwood (support); Prior’s Court Foundation (education); and Autistica (research) which together employ 1,000 staff. In 2016 the trustees decided to spend out the foundation in late 2018. Its records will go into the University of Kent’s Philanthropy Archive which the foundation is funding.


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE


WEALTHY AND THE


POOR, AND I’VE BEEN POOR, IS WIDENING. THERE IS PLENTY OF NEED


102 CAMPDENFB.COM


ISSUE 74 | 2018


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