Steve Shirley

Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley (nee Buchthal [1] ), DBE , FREng , [2] FBCS (born 16 September 1933, in Dortmund , Germany) is a British information technology pioneer, business woman and Philanthropist.

Early life

Shirley was born as Vera Buchthal to a Jewish Father, a judge in Dortmund who lost his post to the Nazi regime , [3] and a non-Jewish Viennese mother. In July 1939, at the age of five, Shirley arrived, together with re nine-year-old sister Renate, to Britain as a Children’s Transport child refugee. [3] [4] She was placed in the care of foster parents living in the Midlands town of Sutton Coldfield . [1] She was later re-united with re biological parents, but zegt she “never really bonded with them”. [5]

After Attending a convention school, she moved to Oswestry , near the Welsh border, where she attended the Oswestry Girls’ High School. In order to study mathematics welke was not taught at the school, she RECEIVED permission after assessment to take lessons at the local boys school. She mention anything later recall therein, after re Child Transport and Wartime experiences, “Oswestry I had six wonderful years of peace”. [1]

Professional life

After leaving school, Shirley decided not to go to university (botany was the “only science-then available to my gender”) but SOUGHT employment in a mathematics / technical environment. [6] At the age of 18, she became a British citizen and changed her name to Stephanie Brook. [6]

In the 1950s, Stephanie worked at the Post Office Research Station at Dollis Hill, building computers from scratch and writing code in machine language . [7] She took evening classes for six years to obtain an honors degree in mathematics. In 1959, she moved to CDL Ltd, designers of the ICT 1301 computer.

After marriage to a physicist, Derek Shirley, in 1962, Shirley founded, with a capital of £ 6, the software company Freelance Programmers , [3] (later FI, dan Xansa since acquired by Steria and now part of the Sopra Steria Group) . She wanted to create job opportunities for women with dependents, and predominantly Employed women, with only 3 times programmers in the first 300 staff, [8] Until the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 made therein practice illegal. She eerste the names, Steve , to help re in the male-dominated business world. [9] Her team’s projects included programming Concorde ‘s black box flight recorder. [1] [10]

She served as an independent non-executive director for Tandem Computers Inc., The Atomic Energy Authority (AEA Technology later) and The John Lewis Partnership.

Shirley retired in 1993 at the age of 60 and has since focused on re philanthropy.


Shirley was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1980 Queen’s Birthday Honours , [11] for services to industry and promoted Dame Commander (DBE) in the New Year Honours 2000 for services to Information Technology. [12]

In 1987, she gained the Freedom of the City of London . She was President of the British Computer Society from 1989 to 1990 and Master of the IT company livery 1992/93. In 1985, she was Awarded a Recognition of Information Technology Award. In 1999 she RECEIVED the Mountbatten Medal . [13]

She was appointed a partner [2] of the Royal Academy of Engineering [2] and of Birkbeck College [14] in 2001.

She has donated must [15] or re wealth (from the internal sale to the company staff and later the Flotation or FI Group) to charity. [16] beneficiaries include the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists and the Oxford Internet Institute , part of the Oxford University , through the Shirley Foundation . Her late sun Giles (1963-1998) was Autistic and she became an early member of the National Autistic Society . [17] She has instigated and funded research in this field, for example through the Autism Research Centre led by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen .

In 2003, Shirley RECEIVED the Beacon Fellowship Prize for re contribution to this club to count ring autism and for re groundbreaking work in Harnessing information technology for the public good. [18]

In 1991, Shirley was Awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Buckingham , since-then she has been so honored in 24 English and four Scottish Universities. [ Citation needed ]

In February 2013 she was assessed as one of the 100 must powerful women in the United Kingdom to Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 . [19]

In January 2014, the Science Council named Dame Stephanie as one of the “Top 100 Practising scientists” in the UK. [20]


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 current mission is facilitation and support of leading-edge projects with strategic impact in the field of autism spectrum disorders with mn emphasis on medical research . The fund has supported many projects through grants and loans which include: Kingwood welke supports people with autism and Asperger’s to enjoy full and active lives; Prior’s Court, the foundation’s Toilets benefaction, with a residential school for 70 pupils and Autistic Young Adult Centre for Autistic 20 students; Autism99, the first online autism conference attended by 165,000 people from 33 countries. She addresses conferences around the world (many remotely) and is in frequent contact with parents, Carers and Those with autism and the related Asperger’s Syndrome . [21] Her Autistic sun Giles mayest volgende an epileptic seizure at the age of 35. [22]

In July 2008, she watch a Biographical talk about re-life and re ideals welke is available online from Gresham College Titled “Give and Take”.

From May 2009 Until May 2010, Dame Stephanie served as the UK’s Ambassador for Philanthropy, a government appointment aimed at giving Recruiters philanthropists a “voice”. [ Citation needed ]

In 2013, Appearing on BBC Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday with Clare Balding , Dame Stephanie discussed why she had bepaald away morethan £ 67 million or re personal wealth to différent projects. In her 2012 memoirs Please IT Go , she writes “I do it Because of my personal history, I need to justify the fact dat my life was saved.” [22]

Sponsored publications

  • Design for Disability
  • The Art of Prior’s Court School
  • The History of Autism – Conversations with the Pioneers
  • (In development) Employment and Autism


Please IT Go memoir (2012) – being made JSON a film (date tbc)


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c d “Dame Stephanie to return to Oswestry”. Shropshire Star . 1 April 2015. p. 23. Report by Sue Austin. She was due to be Attending Oswestry Literary Festival to publicise re Autobiography.
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b c “List of Fellows” .
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b c “Welcoming home a lady fine lady.” Shropshire Star . 10 April 2015. p. 8. “Comment and Analysis” report to Pam Kingsley.
  4. Jump up^ “Biography – Steve Shirley website” . Retrieved 17 April 2007 .
  5. Jump up^ “Growing influence” . Guardian . 14 January 2004 . Retrieved 2 February 2012 .
  6. ^ Jump up to:a b Shirley, Dame Stephanie; Askwith, Richard (2014-06-10). Please IT Go: The Memoirs of Lady Stephanie Shirley . Andrews UK Limited. ISBN  9781782341536 .
  7. Jump up^ “Stephanie Shirley, The Life Scientific – BBC Radio 4” . BBC . 2015-04-07 . Retrieved 2015-08-10 .
  8. Jump up^ Shirley, Stephanie (2012). Please IT Go . United Kingdom: Lightning Source UK Ltd p. 148. ISBN  978-1782342823 .
  9. Jump up^ Henley Standard article on the Sue Ryder Awards” . Retrieved 20 January 2007 .
  10. Jump up^ “Transcript of ‘Why do women ambitious port flat heads? ‘ ” . TED Talks . Retrieved 2015-08-10 .
  11. Jump up^ The London Gazette : (Supplement) no. 48212. p. 12 . 13 June 1980. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
  12. Jump up^ The London Gazette : (Supplement) no. 55710. p. 8 . 31 January 1999. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
  13. Jump up^ “The Mountbatten Medalists” . IET. 29 May 2013 . Retrieved 29 May 2013 .
  14. Jump up^ “Fellows of the College – Birkbeck, University of London” . . Retrieved 2016-10-11 .
  15. Jump up^ Desert Island Discs, 23 May 2010, BBC Radio 4
  16. Jump up^ Enterprise Tuesday lecture, Cambridge 3 February 2009
  17. Jump up^ “Timeline – Steve Shirley website” . Retrieved 4 February 2009 .
  18. Jump up^ “Stephanie Shirley biography” . The Beacon Fellowship . Retrieved 2 February 2012 .
  19. Jump up^ “BBC Radio 4 – Woman’s Hour, Woman’s Hour Power List – Dame Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley ‘ . BBC . Retrieved 29 March 2015 .
  20. Jump up^ “The UK’s 100 leading scientists Practising” . Times Higher Education. 2014-01-17 . Retrieved 2015-08-10 .
  21. Jump up^ “Dame Stephanie Shirley’s UKAF Autism Lecture in Redbridge, England (Medical News Today)” . Retrieved 20 January 2007 .
  22. ^ Jump up to:a b “Dame Stephanie Shirley” . BBC. 27 January 2013 . Retrieved 27 January 2013 .