Press release: Just call me Steve! Dame Stephanie CH to give 2018 Robert Oakeshott Lecture

A leading entrepreneur and champion of women’s rights will deliver the EOA’s 2018 Robert Oakeshott Lecture.

After coming to the UK as a child refugee in 1939, Dame Stephanie Shirley went on to build a business in the IT industry that helped women to work part time in the technology sector.

Adopting the name ‘Steve’ to help win contracts in the male dominated IT sector, she went on to be an outspoken champion of women’s rights, as well as an ambassador for autism awareness, donating more than £67m to charity.

After establishing her female-friendly software company in 1962 she broke new ground to take it into co-ownership, peaking at 65% staff control. She entrusted the company’s destiny to the largely female staff; and it thrived. After 45 years, the company (then Xansa plc) was acquired by Steria. It is now part of EOA new Trustee member Sopra Steria Group.

Sopra Steria, a European leader of IT and digital transformation, is supporting the 2018 Robert Oakeshott Lecture.

The lecture, which will be hosted at Cass Business School on Wednesday 11th April from 12noon to 3pm and which will include a networking lunch, is the 6th year of the annual event to celebrate the life of founder of the EOA, employee ownership pioneer Robert Oakeshott.

Previous Robert Oakeshott Lecture speakers include Sacha Romanovitch who in 2017 called for a ‘new normal’ in the professional services sector as part of her leadership of Grant Thornton’s ambition for a Vibrant Economy; leading influencer and journalist Will Hutton and Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership Sir Charlie Mayfield.

Dame Stephanie Shirley said: “I am lucky to have been successful at something I loved starting a business plc that became valued at some $3bn and employing 8,500 people but I’m most proud of taking my business into co-ownership and then being able to support the charities which are close to my heart.”

Deb Oxley, EOA Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are honoured that this year’s lecture will be delivered by leading entrepreneur Dame Stephanie Shirley.

“Each year in memory of our founder Robert Oakeshott we invite a leading figure linked to employee ownership to deliver this lecture. With her legacy of creating a business that pioneered women working in a male dominated world, and after taking her business into employee ownership, I very much look forward to Dame Stephanie’s delivery of this important lecture at a time when both gender and company ownership are front and centre of the economic and political spotlight.”

Martin Waters, Chairman of the Sopra Steria Employee Trust, said: “We’re delighted to support this year’s Robert Oakeshott Lecture as employee ownership has always formed a core part of Sopra Steria’s heritage and is a key driver for engaging employees, encouraging entrepreneurship and maintaining independence.

“Sopra Steria’s move to become a Trustee member of the EOA and support of this event cements our commitment to helping to drive the growth of employee ownership.”