Dame Stephanie Shirley

(London, UK) One of Britain’s leading entrepreneurs Dame Stephanie Shirley recently paid her first visit to the London Borough of Redbridge, to address an event in Woodford Green Essex organised by the autism charity, the UK Autism Foundation. Dame Stephanie (Steve) Shirley has campaigned tirelessly on autism. She is a well known philanthropist and has donated millions for autism research.

Dame Stephanie Shirley is chair of the Shirley Foundation and Autism Speaks UK. Stephanie Shirley arrived in Britain from Austria at the age of 5 years old; a child refugee fleeing the horrors of Nazi-occupied Germany. Dame Stephanie arrived at Liverpool Street Station stateless, penniless and without any knowledge of the English language.

She is now one of the wealthiest women in Britain due to a talent for maths, computer science and entrepreneurship. She started an early business technology group on her dining room table with £6 in 1962. In 25 years as its Chief Executive, Steve Shirley developed the company, now called Xansa into a FTSE 250 leading technology group, which has pioneered new working practices and changed the position of professional women – especially in hi-tech – during that period of time.

She addressed a gathering of parents, carers, people with autism and community leaders. Dame Stephanie Shirley shared her moving story of her late son Giles who had autism.

Ivan Corea of the UK Autism Foundation said ‘ It was so moving to hear Steve Shirley share her personal story. She is such an inspirational figure, both as a business woman and as an autism campaigner who has done so much for others. It was a tremendous privilege to have heard Dame Stephanie at this event. ‘

Val Davies of the Family Fund also spoke at the meeting together with Ivan Corea (UKAF), Rev.Paul Harcourt (Special Advisor to UKAF), Norman Darling (Chair of Trustees), Angela Naish (Redbridge Parents in Partnership) and Athena Daniels of the parents autism group STAAR.

The UKAF event was organised in partnership with Redbridge PIP and STAAR. There are over 500,000 people with autism in the United Kingdom. According to UK researchers 1 in 100 children are on the autism spectrum.

The UK Autism Foundation’s ‘vision for autism’ includes building the first ever state of the art Autism Centre in London, building an autism school and launching initiatives to help the poor.

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