WATCH DAME STEPHANIE SHIRLEY'S ACCECPTANCE SPEECH
It is my delight to be grouped with such young luminaries. Their zest to solve today’s global problems is inspirational.
We are all stronger for having survived the challenges of the pandemic. Lockdown gave me the time to write my second book ‘So To Speak’. It also coincided with my husband’s failing health.
I’ve always worked from home so am almost embarrassed by how little the pandemic changed my professional life. The biggest difference is that meetings and speeches are now all virtual.
My company was set up to provide flexibility in the extreme and work/life balance to suit women’s needs. But I personally never really managed to balance work and life responsibilities – it’s been (unhealthily) all work though, in the last analysis, family comes first.
With all the changes in world priorities, in technology, in health, the biggest barrier remains good old-fashioned sexism. It’s a struggle to be taken seriously in a business world where men are in the default position. Sure, it’s better than it was. But women seem to disappear with age and I’m now 87.
With my financial success and age, I get fewer sexist micro-aggressions than when I was a novice in some office. I’d advise getting some allies and then using charm, humour and unfailing professionalism to break through.
Charm, humour and unfailing professionalism! I’d also advise presenting yourself at your aspirational level and to differentiate yourself from your peer group.
My breakthrough moment came when I stopped trying to be a Superwoman but rather learnt to show my vulnerability and share problems with my team.
People are remembered for our successes. But it’s the ability to cope with failure that distinguishes the entrepreneur. My resilience is my greatest strength. It stems from my refugee childhood and has made me tough and given me the confidence to cope.
The coming decade should see major employers increasing their talent pool by welcoming women in technology, as IT leaders and hence as CIOs. Getting that gender mix equitable would give enormous economic benefits.
Small is beautiful when it comes to size of organisation and speed of innovation. The sense of urgency pervading start-ups is based on their paucity of resources. I follow the scientific principle: try something out; if it works do more of it; if it doesn’t work, try something else.