Closing the gender gap: How Shireen Motara is advocating for change in the world

Shireen Motara, image: Supplied.

Shireen Motara, image: Supplied.

Published Mar 17, 2024


The gender gap across the world, remains a glaring problem that many are trying to remedy.

One of the many advocates for change is Shireen Motara, the CEO of Tara Transform, and a certified coach and consultant.

As an African feminist, she is passionate about capitalising on the potential of Women and Africa, addressing inequality; and committed to social change that values and recognises women’s rights and contributions.

Motara says, “Women should be able to claim their space anywhere, and everywhere.”

She uses her skills, knowledge, experience and networks to increase the visibility, voice and influence of women in the workplace and society.

Using her experience as a strategist and consultant, Motara helps clients to design, implement and review strategies that advance social justice and address inequality - nationally, regionally, and globally.

Her clients include UN agencies, funders and philanthropic agencies; corporates and non-profits.

For over two decades she has been working and volunteering for social justice.

Motara held roles in management, coaching, executive leadership and consulting in South Africa, the SADC and the United Kingdom.

As a board leader, Motara supported organisations in building effective governance practices, with leadership that prioritises sustainability and gender equality.

Speaking to Business Report on the gender gap in South Africa, Motara said, “As we have grown as a democracy there has been a gradual rolling back of women's rights. The commitment to gender equality entrenched in our Constitution has been forgotten and those tasked legally with protecting women's rights are failing to act.”

“This is why we still have such high levels of gender based violence; women are still stuck in the informal sector and lack proper legal protection in jobs where they are vulnerable; women are also still struggling to access leadership roles and the pay gap is still high. To address these challenges we need political commitment to address the behavioural and structural barriers that affect women's ability to advance. This requires men and society in general to see women as equal contributors to society,” Motara added.

She also gives back by serving as a mentor to the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, and a co-founder of Young Women Thrive, a project that supports women to build economic independence; create jobs and be leaders in their own communities.

Motara’s qualifications include a Masters degree in Law and post-graduate certifications in Coaching, HR and Business Administration.

She believes that there is huge potential for the development of women on the African continent.

“Women in Africa are heavily discriminated against; yet it is these women (with the little they have) that are keeping children, families and communities alive. Women have started and have the potential to accelerate Africa's growth and progress but outdated notions of women's roles keep women stuck in poverty and inhibit their abilities to advance skills and access and drive economic opportunities. There is a lot of progress but addressing patriarchy on a behavioural, attitudinal and policy level is crucial.”

* EDITOR’S NOTE: A warm welcome to Motara as a BR columnist

Philippa Larkin, the Executive Editor of Business Report.

I am delighted to announce that Motara has agreed to write for Business Report (BR) bi-monthly, starting next weekend. Her column will be featured in the Sunday Tribune and online at

I think a regular column that unpacks how South African women can navigate the workplace with practical advice and guidance is very necessary.

When I look at my own career, I used to sit around a conference table dominated by men, where Women’s Day was seen as a soft issue at best.

However, I was too young to express how important the act of highlighting gender equality was.

Happily, I can now say that at Independent Media, there is no gender gap and women have a strong voice.

But to use one’s voice can take time to learn to do.

I remember back to my departed colleague, Deputy Editor Sechaba ka’Nkosi, who asked myself and journalist Dineo Faku on Women’s Day to both write columns.

Both of us really struggled at the time to do so, then laughed at how silly we were to feel intimidated.

Today, I can say that using my voice is not a problem, where it once took a lot of effort.

As a mother of two kids, I am confident the next generation won’t have a similar handbrake.

I also look to my roots to my grandmother at how amazing a woman she was and how I will never comprehend what she faced as one of the first women accepted into Wits University to study in 1922. The prejudices she must have knocked her head against. The battles she fought for acceptance.

Rebecca Lurie Brown went on to become South Africa’s first woman mycologist - the study of fungi. and there is an award named in her honour. The Rebecca Lurie Brown Award, which is made annually to an academically deserving student at Wits. (

The roots of our actions can bear fruit that we can’t even imagine.

As an Editor it is a great privilege to welcome Motara to Business Report in the hope that her columns help other Young Women Thrive and transform not just for today, but for tomorrow and the day after that.