As part of International Women’s Day which is fast approaching, we have been asking the women in our office who their inspirational female icon is.
Victoria Miles, CEO of Northamptonshire Community Foundation, is up next and tells us about the woman that inspires her.
Dame Stephanie Shirley is my choice for a woman that most inspires me. Her story is a true rags to riches journey, but with a focus on giving back to society on a grand scale and using her wealth to make a real difference to others.
She is a successful IT entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist. She is quite an extraordinary person and having heard her speak at an event we had here in Northamptonshire for the Community Foundation a few years back, her story has stayed with me.
Having arrived in Britain as an unaccompanied child refugee in 1939, she started what became Xansa plc (now part of the Sopra Group) on her dining room table with £6 in 1962. In 25 years as its Chief Executive she developed it into a leading business technology group, pioneering new work practices and changing the position of professional women (especially in hi-tech) along the way. Her Dameship in the Millennium honours was for services to IT.
She has served on corporate Boards such as Tandem Computers Inc. (1992-7), the John Lewis Partnership plc (1999-2001) and AEA Technology – previously the Atomic Energy Authority (1992-2000). Her philanthropy is based on her strong belief in giving back to society. She focuses on IT and autism (her autistic son Giles died age 35 in 1998).
Her charitable Shirley Foundation has made over £67m grants and initiated a number of projects that are pioneering by nature, strategic in impact and significant in money terms. Current activity is targeted at national strategies for autism.
Aged 82 she remains married to her first husband. (This is inspirational and admirable in itself!)
We are hosting a special event on Tuesday 8th March for International Women’s Day celebrating inspirational women across Northamptonshire. Our guest speakers include
Natalie Deacon: Executive Director Brand and Corporate Communications EMEA of Avon Cosmetics
Pauline Black: British singer, actress and author.
Suzy Van Rooyen: CEO of The Good Loaf.
Sarah Franklin: British Racing Driver and Lawyer.
For more information head to our event page: