University of Leicester alumnae pledge support for tomorrow’s influential women

Posted by er134 at Oct 31, 2013 11:20 AM |
New fund launched by Dame Stephanie Shirley to encourage female scientists

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 31 October 2013

Graduates of the University of Leicester are supporting tomorrow’s women of influence with the launch of the ‘Women of Influence Guild’ by Honorary Graduate and inspirational businesswoman and philanthropist, Dame Stephanie Shirley.

The Women of Influence Guild was officially launched at the University’s fourth annual award-winning Women of Influence luncheon in London last week. The event brought together more than 60 successful alumnae spanning 50 years of the University’s history. Guests included influential politicians, entrepreneurs, bankers, scientists, philanthropists and journalists.

The Guild, launched by Dame Stephanie, one of the very first software developers in the UK, will this year support women scientists at the University.

Dame Stephanie explained: “Women are still badly unrepresented in Science. I am so proud of my honorary degree from the University of Leicester and want to help the University continue to develop. I hope the Women of Influence Guild paves the way for more women to make a real difference.”

In its first year, the fund will support scholarships for women and research projects led by women at the University in  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects; traditionally male-dominated fields.

University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Robert Burgess said: “The Women of Influence Guild offers a fantastic opportunity for our graduates to support the development of women scientists at the University. We are immensely proud of our outstanding women researchers at Leicester and the recognition from independent assessors Athena Swan for our progress in this area.  I hope that this year’s Guild will enable us to attract even more high calibre women in the STEM subjects.”

Thanks to the generosity of alumnae and friends during the event, over £6,500 has already been raised for the Guild.

Alumna and Women of Influence supporter, Claire Gillingwater, owner of DunnellGillingwater and Associates commented: “What could be more inspiring and motivating for us as graduates of the University of Leicester to inspire other women to follow in our footsteps and to fund a talented young graduate through her work in Science? It’s shocking that in 2012 only 13% of the UK’s STEM workforce were women. Not only will the Guild fund a science graduate this year, it will also show our support for those future Leicester graduates and women of influence who will know that we are fully committed to investing in them.”

Steve O’Connor, Director of Development added: “We are delighted that the Fund has been launched so successfully and with the support of someone as inspirational as Dame Stephanie. The annual Women of Influence Luncheon is one of the highlights of our alumni events calendar; we are extremely proud of the many influential and inspiring women who are Leicester graduates and this is a fantastic opportunity for them to speak with one voice and support the education and careers of future women of influence from the University.”

To find out more about the University of Leicester’s Women of Influence Guild, please contact Lisa Davies, Development Manager via

Listen to Dame Stephanie's speech from the luncheon in this podcast:



Notes to Editors:

In its first year, the University of Leicester’s Women of Influence Guild will support female scholars in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.

Dame Stephanie Shirley

Dame Stephanie Shirley is one of Britain's leading philanthropists and has dedicated most of her life to helping good causes.

But she has also led a life of extraordinary drama and courage: from her arrival in England as an unaccompanied Kindertransport refugee to her battle against sexism in the workplace, her struggles to build a world-changing business from nothing while raising a severely autistic son and her subsequent dedication to charity.

Arguably Britain’s first tech tycoon, “Steve” Shirley has been one of the great business innovators of her time. She created a software company when the concept of software barely existed, empowered her mainly female staff to work as and where they saw fit, pioneered outsourcing, and gradually transferred ownership and control of her company to those who worked for it, creating scores of millionaires in the process. In this, as in other facets of her life, she is an inspiring embodiment of the principle that it is when we “let things go” – wealth, control, fear – that we achieve most.

Her moving and inspiring memoir, Let it Go, tells the amazing story of a woman who made a fortune in a man’s world and then gave it all away.

Available from all good book shops and online.

Further information:

Contact Lisa Davies, Development Manager, University of Leicester at:

Images from the luncheon are available on request and a podcast recording of Dame Shirley’s speech is available online:

Share this page: