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Dame Stephanie Shirley - BIMA Hall of Fame

20 Dec 2017

Posted by Rachel Johnson

The search is on again for the BIMA 100, the 100 people most influential in shaping the current state of the UK digital industry (if you’re a BIMA member, you can find out more about making your nomination here).

As part of the BIMA 100 ceremony, each year, we also induct two people into the Hall of Fame. Inductees share many traits: they are indomitable, innovative, courageous in a variety of ways and utterly inspirational. As we prepare the announcements for this year, it seems appropriate to revisit 2017, when Dame Stephanie Shirley was inducted into the BIMA Hall of Fame. For those that attended the ceremony, you'll remember her amazing story. If you didn't make the ceremony, you can catch her story here.

Watch the full interview here

Dame Stephanie Shirley escaped Nazi Germany aged five. She had to fight to be taught maths (as her girls’ school didn’t do that sort of thing, she learnt it at the boys’ school). And she’s been fighting against convention ever since.

At the Post Office Research Station, she was a lone woman amidst hundreds of men. She hit the glass ceiling “many, many times.”

In 1962, Dame Stephanie launched Freelance Programmers, the UK’s (and surely the world’s?) first software startup staffed entirely by women. After a faltering start, the company gathered traction when Stephanie started using her family nickname of Steve 

“It made a difference. People wanted to see me. I was in that door shaking hands before anyone realised that Steve was a she”.

Freelance Programmers’ women wrote the code for Concorde’s black boxes. They created software management protocols for NATO. And they did it in a work environment unlike any other of the time: flexible working. Home working. A workplace ‘creche’.

When Dame Stephanie floated the company in 1993, it raised $3 billion and made 70 of her most loyal employees (mostly women) millionaires.

In 2001, she founded the Oxford Internet Institute. Today, the Shirley Foundation supports projects in the field of autism and IT and she has donated £68 million of her personal fortune to charity.

BIMA 100’s Hall of Fame honours lifetime achievement in the digital industry. It is difficult to imagine anyone who could have crammed more into a lifetime.

You can view highlights of BIMA’s interview with Dame Stephanie here, but we’d urge you to watch the full interview for more on programming 1960s-style, the challenges of being a woman in a resolutely man’s world...

Our 2018 BIMA 100 search has begun. If you would like to nominate one of your work colleagues, please visit BIMA 100

Rachel Johnson
Posted by Rachel Johnson

Rachel has recently joined BIMA having worked for more than 20 years in the world of Marketing. Rachel has many impressive client, charity and agency-side results to her credit and stories to tell. As both a team player and independent advisor, Rachel loves to see the bigger picture and is a strong strategic thinker. She has led ambitious projects for start-ups, worked alongside growing businesses and has been fortunate to work with some of the UK’s most respected and renowned agencies. A self-motivated original thinker, Rachel is also an extremely able marketer. She brings out the best in people at all levels. Her wealth of transferable skills includes project management – often with direct budgetary control - results-driven commercial awareness, proven networking strengths, digital marketing expertise and broad IT literacy. However, her achievements do not end there! In her spare time, she makes full-use of her Cumbrian home-town environment, walking, biking and running, and spending time as an enthusiastic side-line rugby and football mum for her two boys – Louie and Harley.

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