Oral history of British science

Shirley, Stephanie (Part 13 of 15). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Computer Software

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Henley-on-Thames

  • Interviewees

    Shirley, Stephanie, 1933- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 13: Remarks on using HEC4 computer at GEC Wembley thanks to friend Bill Cameron from Sir John Cass College. Comments on feminism: being part of the 1960s feminist movement without being conscious of it; disagreeing with many aspects of feminist movement and considering herself a humanist; changes in women's appearance; importance of equal but different; views on paradox of 1975 equality legislation making her provision of professional employment for women more difficult. [05:00] Remarks on: employing men if they were good enough; problems of being a women in business, such as bank accounts and lack of credibility. Story about feelings about being at first ordination of women priests at Bristol Cathedral. Remarks on: overlap in male and female capabilities; inspiration of underdogs, such as the Black Power movement. Anecdotes about: engrained segregation in South Carolina; seeing a black bus conductor for the first time; Auntie's reaction to an American soldier's racism. [11:00] Comments on balancing working and caring for Giles by cutting down other activities. Remarks on: originally wanting a large family; high chance of another disabled child, genetic counselling; difficulties of balancing caring for Giles and having another child; sad not to have children and grandchildren but believing it was right choice. [15:010] Comments on feelings towards Giles throughout his life: post natal emotions; close to him as a baby; slow to pick up on problems; change to a dutiful relationship; caring for Giles in shifts with DS; Giles never calling her mother and limited recognition; feeling situation was unfair; still dreaming about Giles. [19:54] Comments on change in relationship after she and Giles were hospitalised: enjoying motherhood because she had time as his physical care was assisted; structured his life; resented people knowing her only as Giles' mother. Comments on Giles's progression from hospital: long transition from institutional life; normalisation, DS keen on him speaking and learning tennis; Giles's finding it difficult at first but enjoying a structured life with time, and becoming relatively calm and happy; gaining a good quality of life. [26:05] Remarks on: finding creativity important and trying to trigger creative impulses in baby Giles; conscious of not having younger family as she and DS age. Comments on Giles' death in 1998: DS remembering date of humanist funeral more; bitter-sweet passing when thinking of the future; differences between DS and SS reactions to death, SS dedicating her life to Autism for many years. [32:20] Comments on Prior's Court: stepping back from projects once they were running; never seeing Giles at Prior's Court, but still remembering him in many other locations. Comments on overlap of business and philanthropic activities, now called philanthrocapitalism; being aware her charitable activities were different as they included time and skills; fascination with all encompassing nature of business, thinking FI would be magnum opus but wrong. [37:22] Discussion about considering big project being making her life worth saving; having feelings since she was five; being strengthened by knowledge she was a survivor. [40:24] Comments on latter part of business career: leaving technical aspects long before for corporate aspects; doing interesting things outside work; changing from understanding technology itself to being more concerned with social aspects; computer aspects of charity work, such as Oxford Internet Institute. [43:16] Comments on art donations: collection at Prior's Court; Prior's Court portrait and WCIT sculpture of her; commissioning portrait of Tim Berners-Lee for the Royal Society; commissioning a portrait of Stephen Hawking for the Royal Society, complications over the choice between two portraits; interest in art business; gifting a sculpture of Stephan Hawking by Milein Cosman to his Oxford College; [51:02] Gifting a drawing of Gerald Finzi to Prior's Court; enjoyment of donating art; favouring British and abstract art; importance of choosing art carefully for Prior's Court; personal taste for abstract art. [54:00] Comments on other philanthropic projects: involved in 70 projects since 1994; early gift of SF to a Bermuda debating society; developing a mission to be pioneering and strategic; project to change approaches toward autism through a study of economic impact of autism; Autism 99 web portal, which grew out of an electronic conference; project with Birmingham University for a qualification for caring for people with Autism. [1:01:06] Remarks on personal role in projects of this time: setting up, choosing suppliers, managing, quality control, but always through project directors; innovative ideas, such as a PhD study of impact of art collection on Prior's Court pupils. Comments on mechanisms for managing projects, similarities to business practices. [1:04:09] Comments on involvement in setting up Autism Cymru. Remarks on strategic nature of projects. Comments on involvement with Wirral Autistic society, advice of John Woodhouse, setting up Giles Shirley Hall residential and heritage centre.

  • Description

    Interview with entrepreneur, computer scientist and philanthropist Dame Stephanie 'Steve' Shirley.

  • Related transcripts

    Dame Stephanie Shirley interviewed by Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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