Why should a women have to pretend to be a man to succeed?
Dame Stephanie Shirley is a member of the UK House of Lords and is a highly successful IT entrepreneur and British information technology pioneer. Formerly known as Vera Buchthal, she entered England as an unaccompanied Kindertransport child refugee in 1939 and was put into foster care along with her elder sister.
After taking mathematics lessons at the local boys' school, Dame Shirley broke into a man’s world, and created the software company ‘Freelance Programmers’ in 1962. Her aim was to provide job opportunities for females, and she employed only women until the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 made it illegal to do so.
Unfortunately, she found that company letters signed using her real name were often disregarded, so due to this sexism, she used the name ‘Steve’ to aid her career in the male-dominated business world. Since then she has continued to succeed in her career, after realising that the sky's the limit for women in this sector. As a result, in 2013 BBC Radio 4 named her as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK, and in 2014, she was assessed as one of the ‘Top 100 practising scientists’ in the UK by the Science Council.
Dame Stephanie Shirley has shown her support for our awareness campaign, and stated that she “cannot understand why women do not thrive in this expanding market”. The need to expand the IT and Cyber Security market to allow more females to succeed will only help combat the challenge of staying resilient against the many threats in this sector, and it is clear that “engineering certainly makes a difference to society”.
In 2019, a survey conducted by HESA using UCAS data demonstrated that still only 35% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students in higher education in the UK are women. This disappointing statistic shows the huge gender gap that still exists within students and the current workforce, illustrating the ongoing need to focus our attention on this matter, and promoting the presence of influential female role models, such as Dame Stephanie Shirley.
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