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Dame Stephanie Shirley

In 1939 Dame Stephanie Shirley (85) came to England as an unaccompanied child refugee on the Kindertransport.

She became a serial entrepreneur and founded an early software company that eventually employed 8,500 staff.

It started with just £6 as a crusade for women. Her female-friendly company broke new ground in its flexibility, its holistic approach to human resources and in its co-ownership, which peaked at 62% staff control.

Post-retirement Dame Stephanie served on the boards of Tandem Computers in the US, the Atomic Energy Authority (including as it privatised into AEA Technology plc) and was the first ever non-executive director of the John Lewis Partnership.

After her company was acquired by a French Group, it was valued at some $3bn and had made 70 of her staff into millionaires.

Dame Stephanie then turned herself into an ardent philanthropist. To-date she has made gifts of £68m as social investments in IT (her professional discipline) and autism (her late son’s disorder).

She is a Past Master of the IT livery company, was the first woman President of the British Computer Society, and was appointed a Companion of Honour in 2017 – one of only 65 worldwide – for “nationally important service”.