Dame Stephanie Shirley – Why do Ambitious Women have flat heads ?
All we used was a simple « trust the staff » approach […] An early project was to develop software standards on management control protocols. And software was and still is a maddeningly hard-to-control activity, so that was enormously valuable. We used the standards ourselves, we were even paid to update them over the years, and eventually, they were adopted by NATO.
Nobody really expected much from people at work or in society because all the expectations then were about home and family responsibilities. And I couldn’t really face that, so I started to challenge the conventions of the time, even to the extent of changing my name from « Stephanie » to « Steve » in my business development letters, so as to get through the door before anyone realized that he was a she.
When I started my company of women, the men said, « How interesting, because it only works because it’s small. » And later, as it became sizable, they accepted, « Yes, it is sizable now, but of no strategic interest. » And later, when it was a company valued at over three billion dollars, and I’d made 70 of the staff into millionaires, they sort of said, « Well done, Steve! »
We live our lives forward. So what has all that taught me? I learned that tomorrow’s never going to be like today, and certainly nothing like yesterday. And that made me able to cope with change, indeed, eventually to welcome change, though I’m told I’m still very difficult.