International Women’s Day 2014 in London with Dame Stephanie Shirley

  • Posted on March 19, 2014

This is a guest blog post written by Avanade alum, Vikki Leach.

Here at Avanade, we love to celebrate International Women’s Day.  It is a chance to celebrate all the great work and processes we put in place as a business to better support women in this male-dominated organization.  It is an opportunity to demonstrate to women that “you can climb the career ladder as far as you want.”

The whole gender diversity agenda has really gained momentum at Avanade, offering a number of processes and support programs to better equip women to progress their career and also finding ways to bring the men at Avanade on the journey with us.

International Women Day at Avanade Avanade's Pam Maynard with Dame Stephanie Shirley

This year, we hosted the International Women’s Day marquee event in London.  This year’s theme for both Accenture and Avanade was “Empower! Knowing and Growing Your Career Capital.” We wanted to feature an inspirational female speaker who could share her story of success. So we invited Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley, who founded a software company in 1962, worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for women in technology and retired at age 60 for a second career in philanthropy. We created booths around the event for people to seek advice, learn more and to share their experiences.  The idea was to have participants share tips and tricks to help employees grow their career.  Our booths were themed and divided into four categories: Inspire Change, Build Skills, Gain New Experiences and Expand Networks. The booths opened with an interview between Pam Maynard, Avanade President of Europe, Africa, Latin America and Dame Stephanie Shirley. The key highlight for me was to sit back and listen to her empowering story. Here’s what she had to say:

As an unaccompanied child refugee, it gave me the drive to prove that my life had been worth saving. My early experience of the ‘glass ceiling’ at work encouraged me to set up my own business which, thanks to my supportive husband, I did in 1962. While planning to start a family, I hit upon the brilliant idea of offering part-time employment to professional women with dependents and perforce developed new techniques to manage the business on this basis. The IT business, later known as Xansa and now part of Steria, prospered and I became wealthy.

This wealth has enabled me to devote my ‘retirement’ to giving something back to society. I have originated and supported strategic projects in the fields of autism (our son Giles was autistic) and IT, particularly making better use of IT in the voluntary sector. Nowadays, however, my focus is purely on autism. This is via The Shirley Foundation and to facilitate scientific research aimed to get at the causes of this disorder by 2014 and to halve its global costs by 2020.

Dame “Steve” is a truly inspirational woman - she took questions from the audience from a range of Avanade employees. My big take away from our International Women’s Day event was how men and women celebrated such an inspirational event together, learning and better understanding each other’s experiences in the work place. I would love to see a similar celebration in November focused on International Men’s Day! You can learn more about Dame Steve's story in the video below.

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