Dame Stephanie Shirley – Tech entrepreneur and Philanthropist

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What motivates you? 

My motivation stems from my child refugee days, when I was saved from Nazi Germany in the Kinderstransport. I determined at a young age to embrace change and make mine a life that was worthy of being saved.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career? 

I learnt the most, the fastest, during the 1970s recession. Till then, the market had helped to carry my company forward; suddenly, the task was like that of a liquidator: to concentrate on essentials. I’ve kept myself focussed ever since.

Ambition or talent?

There are more measures of success than profit and mine was a social business. Yes, talent helps but ambition is less important than perseverance and motivation.

What advice would you give to your 30 year old self?

Another 50 years to go! So make sure you spend them on worthwhile things that you enjoy doing.

Who do you admire?

People who have known sorrow such as Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. And Sir Stephen Hawking, amazingly still enjoying life.

In what place are you happiest? 

Place isn’t as important to me as people. So long as I’m with my husband of now well over 50 years, I’m happy.

What’s your biggest extravagance? 

My Friday evening massages.

How would you change government policy to help women in the workplace? 

With better provision of childcare.

Do you believe in quotas?

I used to loathe the idea of quotas (who wants to be a “token” woman?). But then I began to have doubts. Eventually, I realised that without quotas progress will remain slow. But I still don’t like them.

Describe myself in 3 words? 

Inspirational. Hard/working.

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