Last updated: 18 June 2019
Dame Stephanie Shirley arrived in the UK as a child refugee at the age of 5.
It was 1939, and her Austrian parents had sent her to the UK to escape the Nazi regime.
Placed into foster care, she was given a second chance at life – which she embraced wholeheartedly.
So much so, after hitting the “glass ceiling” first hand in the 60s, she quit her job and started her own IT company, which was then called Freelance Programmers, the first all-woman software company in the UK.
With just a few dollars to her name and working from her dining-room table, she turned the company into a $3 billion-dollar business, making millionaires of many employees along the way.
An all-woman business – especially in the IT industry – in the 60s was an almost impossible feat, when you think about it. After all, women at this time couldn’t drive a bus, fly a plane, or even open a bank account without their husband’s permission!
And yet, Dame Shirley constantly challenged the conventions of the day, pioneering working methods that would eventually become the norm, such as job sharing, flexible working, profit-sharing and co-ownership.
In the above TED Talk, she explains what it took to achieve the kind of extraordinary success she fought hard to achieve.
To turn any idea into a thriving enterprise, Dame Shirley says you need energy, determination, self-belief, commitment and the courage to take risks.
Oh, and in her case, changing her name to “Steve” also helped deal with any sexism along the way.
Check the inspiring video out now to discover her invaluable business advice, in addition to why successful women have large feet, flat heads, and what her team of coders had to do with the Concorde flight recorder…
And to find out more about Dame Stephanie Shirley and the philanthropy work she does for autism research and awareness, which she now spends all her time (and funds) on, check out her website.