Prof Shirley Zinn is the former Group Head of Human Resources at Woolworths
Holdings Limited. Prior to this, she was the Head of Human Resources of Standard
Bank South Africa and Deputy Global Head of Human Resources for the Standard Bank
Group. She also registered her own company: Shirley Zinn Consulting that provides
consulting and advisory services in HR, Transformation, Leadership and Education.
Prior to this she was the Group Executive HR at Nedbank. Before this, she was the
General Manager for Human Resources at the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
She is also an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria’s Department of
Human Resource Management, and recently been appointed as Adjunct Professor at
the University of Cape Town. She is the Past President of the Institute for People
Management South Africa and registered as Master HR Professional with South Africa
Board for People Practice.
She hails from the Cape Flats in Cape Town, and started her career as a secondary
school teacher of English, then moved to the University of the Western Cape where she
lectured in Teacher Education. After this, she served at Southern Life as Training
Manager and then moved to the Department of Public Service and Administration’s:
South African Management Development Institute, in Pretoria as Director. She held the
position of Executive Employment Equity at Computer Configurations Holdings. Before
her appointment at SARS, she filled the role of Regional Human Resources Director for
Middle East and Africa for Reckitt Benckiser, a global company listed on the London
She is the former Chairman of DHL: Global Forwarding SA, and currently a Non-
Executive Director on the Boards of JSE listed AdvTech (Lead Independent and Chair
of Remco) and Sygnia Asset Management (Lead Independent, and Chair of Remco and
Social and Ethics Committee).
She also serves as a director on the Boards of Tuesday Consulting, Empowerment
Capital, Knowledge Resources, Business Engage, Community Chest, and the Boston
Consulting Group SA. In addition, she is the HR Advisor to the Board of Silvertree
Internet Holdings. She also serves on the Take-Over Regulation Panel Board and on
the Council of the University of Cape Town. She is a Trustee on the Nedbank Eyethu
Community Trust, Ambassador for the Orbis Africa Charity, and the former Chairman of
Starfish Greathearts Foundation. She also serves on the Advisory Boards of Monash
South Africa, and the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Economic and Management
Sciences. She is the past President for the Harvard Alumni Association South Africa
and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors SA. She also previously served as the Chair of
the Institute of Bankers. She was recently appointed as the Patron for South Africa
Council of Business Women.
She is a coach and mentor to several women across multiple industries
She has presented at numerous national and international conferences as a keynote
In 2015, she wrote her autobiography entitled “Swimming Upstream” which focuses on
her personal and professional journey. It has officially been announced as a best-seller.
In 2016, she has done several “Swimming Upstream” talks nationally at corporates,
schools, universities and charities, with the hope of motivating and inspiring especially
youth and women that they can achieve despite adversity, and to never give up.
She holds a BA (University of the Western Cape); Post Graduate Higher Diploma in
Education (University of the Western Cape); B.Ed. Honours (UNISA); M.Ed. (University
of the Western Cape); Ed.M. (Harvard); and Doctorate in Education (Harvard).
She was awarded the Top Woman in Business and Government and Top Executive in
Corporate South Africa by Topco Media in 2008. She also was recognized by the Black
Business Quarterly and received the Award for Top Woman in Business and
Government and most Visionary Woman in 2008. She also received an award from the
World Human resources Congress in Mumbai in 2007 and 2013 respectively for
Excellence in Global HR Leadership. In 2012, was listed in the Top 30 Wonder Women
in South Africa by the Wits Business Journal. She was awarded Africa’s Most Influential
Women in Business and Government for 2016 in the SME Sector by CEO Global.
She also completed her ninth Two Oceans Half Marathon in March 2018.