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Every Day is Women’s Day for Steve

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March 08, 2022 | 3 minutes read time

Dame Stephanie Shirley has dedicated her life to the advancement of women. A pioneer in the purest form, she set up her software company Freelance Programmers, where 297 out of 300 staff were women. She called herself Steve to get through the patriarchal doors and since then, through her philanthropy, her memoir Let It Go and her anthology of 29 speeches, she’s been a symbol of a fight that she consciously started over 60 years ago. Fighting for independence, resilience and women finding their place in a challenging world. 

International Women’s Day would not be complete without mentioning this champion of women’s rights. We had the privilege to speak with her on her thoughts on technology and the influence it has on women in today’s workplace now, in a world affected by a global pandemic.

Hello Stephanie, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

You built a company for women, by women at a time when womens’ rights were desperately limited. We admire how you pioneered flexible work methods and structures for women coming back to work. As a woman who achieved so many firsts, how do you believe technology has played and will continue to play a part in bridging the gender gap and advancing women’s roles in business?

“Technology has facilitated flexible working (one of the two things women always say they want – the other is work/life balance). Work from Home (WFH), hybrid working, annual hour contracts all become feasible.  The organisation benefits from multinational and multigenerational teams, all of which help mentoring and reverse mentoring.”

You pioneered a new way of working in the 1960s with your company Freelance Programmers, Britain’s largest software consultancy. In the 60 years since, how do you think modern technology and the recent pandemic has further changed and enhanced the way we work? 

“The pandemic has not served women well. More women than men (pro rata) lost their jobs or were furloughed. And we took the brunt of working from home as regards childcare and home schooling. I was HORRIFIED that government waived the requirements to report on an organisation’s gender pay gap.“

You called yourself Steve, went through so much and persevered. What advice would you give women in the tech world today in any capacity, at any level or even as entrepreneurs starting up their own business?

“The digital world may be binary but people are not all strictly male or female. We each have the responsibility to place the human at the heart of technology. All businesses have to be astute in their use of technology if they are to remain competitive. We need an increased emphasis on women getting into STEM careers.  

I’d advise women in the tech world to take a small risk, a big jump and just go for it.”

Today, at a time when it feels like we can’t keep up with technology, this woman who seemingly was at the start of it all is advising us to keep humans at the heart of technology. And she is still empowering women from the sidelines. Here’s a woman fighting in your corner, telling you take a jump and just go for it. 

Thank you, Stephanie, or should we say, Steve?




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