Eighty year old Stephanie Shirley’s story is incredibly inspirational to women who want to make change in the world.

You may wonder why I think a TED talk about successful entrepreneurial business women would be within the scope of the WOMAN SCIENTIST site; I use a lot of examples of business entrepreneurs because I think the same strategy and passion they’ve found can absolutely apply to careers in the scientific world. I’m trying to encourage you ladies to be creative about how you weave your passion for science into a career. There are sooooo many alternative choices we don’t hear about in college. Hopefully this video will tune you in to your gut and inspire you to make something for yourself. Thats what it did for me.

Without further adieu, please take 14 minutes to watch this sassy straightforward woman talk.

Dame Stephanie Shirley is the most successful tech entrepreneur you never heard of. In the 1960s, she founded a pioneering all-woman software company in the UK, which was ultimately valued at $3 billion, making millionaires of 70 of her team members. In this frank and often hilarious talk, she explains why she went by “Steve,” how she upended the expectations of the time, and shares some sure-fire ways to identify ambitious women …

She challenged so many conventions of her time even to the point of changing her name to Steve just to get through the door before anyone realized “he” was a “she”!

Stephanie believes that young women of today have “got it dead easy” compared with those of her own generation. Women have nothing to complain about, as all the legal obstacles holding them back have been removed; it is their own reluctance to fight in the workplace that is the real problem.

My favorite part is at 8:12

“When I started my company of women, the men sort of said, ‘How interesting, because it only works because it’s small.’

And later, as it became sizable they sort of accepted, ‘Yes it is sizable now, but of no strategic interest.’

And later, when it was a company valued at over $3 billion and I’ve made 70 of the staff into millionaires they sort of said, ‘Well done, Steve.'”

“If it were easy to be successful, we all would be.”

“It’s one thing to have an idea for an enterprise, but as many people in this room will know, making it happen is a very difficult thing and it demands extraordinary energy, self belief and determination. The courage to risk family and home. And a 24/7 commitment that borders on the obsessive.”

What do you envision for your career in science? What do you spend your time doing? What key elements of your being does it include? Really listen to yourself. Write it down! Keep it folded in your pocket. Refer to it often. Change it up! It exists for you. Make it happen. If you keep this bigger vision in mind of what you want to accomplish then it will be easier to understand how different opportunities will help build your tool set and keep you on course.

And for gosh sakes if anyone tells you you can’t do what you are thinking of doing just give ’em the finger and keep going!

My family loves birds.

My family loves birds.

More follow up reading here at ‘Success has a cost. Women today are so naive’ 

Visit her home site here.

Read more about her struggles with raising an autistic son and the charitable trust fund,The Shirley Foundation, she started because of it here.

To the outside world, my life was to be hugely envied, and I was an unmitigated success. Those who knew me, however, would not have swapped places with me for the world.

Needless to say, I would have traded all the wealth and professional accolades for Giles to have been an ordinary child, with a happy, uncomplicated existence.


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