In an era marked by the rising tide of women shattering glass ceilings and forging unique paths in the business world, it is important for us to acknowledge and applaud some of the trailblazing Arab women who have achieved extraordinary success in their fields. What follows is a sampling of remarkable women in our region who are disrupting industries and spearheading innovative ideas, and who deserve recognition and applause for their accomplishments.
Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned – Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, Education Above All Foundation & Silatech
The influential powerhouse that is Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned of Qatar plays a huge role championing education, women’s rights, and children’s welfare in Qatar. As Chairwoman of the Qatar Foundation, she has revolutionised the country’s educational landscape, including by promoting international research and empowering Arab students with scholarships worldwide. She is also strongly committed to social progress as is evident in her efforts against domestic violence and her promotion of children’s rights. Sheikha Moza’s visionary leadership also extends to the NGO sector, through her founding of Silatech—an international development nonprofit non-governmental organisation dedicated to ensuring the realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals through youth empowerment.
Queen Rania Al Abdullah – Queen Consort of Jordan
Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan has been the queen since 1999. As the esteemed wife of King Abdullah II, she has utilised her position to advocate for many causes, particularly the championing of women’s and children rights. With unwavering dedication, Queen Rania strives to uplift the lives of Jordanian citizens by actively supporting initiatives that create opportunities for the advancement of all. Her commitment to revitalising the public education system, empowering women and their communities, enhancing child and family protection services, and fostering innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship is strongly felt. Queen Rania’s efforts also transcend borders, as she promotes tolerance and empathy among individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani – Chairperson of Qatar Museums, Doha Film Institute, Reach Out to Asia & Qatar Leadership Centre
Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar, known as the “Queen of the Art World,” is a visionary leader in Qatar’s cultural landscape. As Chairperson of Qatar Museums, she guides the preservation and expansion of Qatar’s art collection and is actively transforming Qatar into a vibrant cultural hub. Sheikha Al-Mayassa’s passion for promoting Islamic art and culture is evident through her dedication to creating welcoming spaces and educational opportunities within museums. With her leadership, thousands of students have engaged in cultural visits and youth-centered art workshops, fostering creativity and appreciation among Qatar’s youth. As the founder and Chairman of the Doha Film Institute, her influence also extends beyond art to film, and she has earned accolades for her achievements in the industry.
Lubna Olayan – Chairman of the Saudi-British Bank, and Chairperson of the Executive Committee and Deputy Chairman of Olayan Financial Holding
Saudi national, Lubna Olayan, widely regarded as one of the most powerful Arab businesswomen, has left an indelible mark on the corporate landscape. For more than three decades, she has served as CEO of Olayan Financing Company, which was founded by her father in 1947. While she stepped down from her CEO position in 2019, she remains Chairman of the Executive Committee and Deputy Chairman of Olayan Financial Holding. Olayan’s leadership also extends beyond her family business. As Chairman of Saudi British Bank and Vice Chairman of Alawwal Bank, she is the first woman to join the board of a Saudi publicly listed company. Her impact also transcends borders, as she serves on the World Economic Forum’s Board of Trustees, chairs the Saudi Swedish Business Council and has co-chaired the inaugural Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum.
Hind Bahwan – Founder and Chairman of the Bahwan CyberTek Group
A versatile Omani entrepreneur, Hind Bahwan is known for her multifaceted endeavours and her commitment to fostering innovation in various fields. Bahwan is the Founder and Chairman of Bahwan CyberTek Group, a conglomerate with a focus on IT, logistics, and engineering projects. In collaboration with Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, the group is providing student internships and immersive experiences to address the rising demand for emerging technologies such as AI, ML, and IoT. Bahwan also holds the Chairman position at HBTI DMCC, a private commodity trading company dealing in crude oil and oil products, and is the driving force behind Bahwan Lifestyle, a brand dedicated to crafting innovative luxury products. Bahwan has received numerous prestigious awards, including Oman’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2000, e-Achiever of the Year in 2001, IT Women of the Year 2002, and Global Leaders for Tomorrow award in 2003.
Farida Khamis – Chair of Orientals Group, Chair of The British University in Egypt (BUE) and Chair of The Egyptian Propylene and Polypropylene Company & Yasmine Khamis – Chair of Oriental Weavers Carpets
The dynamic Egyptian duo, Farida and Yasmine Khamis, assumed the leadership of renowned international carpet manufacturer Oriental Weavers following the passing of their father, Mohamed Khamis, in 2020. Yasmine, now the Chair of Oriental Weavers Carpets, spearheads operations, while Farida serves as Chair of Orientals Group; and the company has continued to grow under their leadership. Founded in 1979 by their father, Oriental Weavers grew to become a global powerhouse that produces a staggering average of 48 carpets per minute in their factories in Egypt and the U.S. In addition to Oriental Weavers, Farida holds influential positions in various organisations, including the British University in Egypt and the Egyptian Propylene and Polypropylene Company. Yasmine, on the other hand, has been involved in shaping the business landscape as a founding member of the Africa Business Leaders Coalition.
Dame Nemat Shafik – The President of Columbia University
After serving as President of the London School of Economics (LSE) since 2017, Egyptian American Nemat Shafik made history when she became the first female president of Columbia University in 2023, marking another significant milestone in her illustrious career that spanns over three decades. A highly respected economist, Shafik has held senior positions at the World Bank as well as the International Monetary Fund, where she served as Deputy Managing Director from 2011 until 2014, as well as at the Bank of England, one of the world’s oldest central banks, where she served as the first Deputy Governor from 2014 until 2017. Shafik’s exceptional contributions in her field have been widely acknowledged globally. She has received honourary doctorates from esteemed institutions and was bestowed with the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2015, which allows her to be addressed as “Dame” before her name. In 2017, she was honoured with the British Muslim Awards (BMA) Leader in Finance, solidifying her position as a trailblazer in the field. Beyond her remarkable achievements in academia and finance, Dame Shafik currently serves as a trustee at the British Museum.
Raja Easa Al Gurg – Chairman and Managing Director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group
United Arab Emirates national, Raja Al Gurg has been Chairman of the Board at the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group (ESAG) since 2022, after having served as Managing Director and Vice Chairman of the Group from 1990 until 2022. Gurg was also the first Emirati woman to be appointed to the board of HSBC Middle East, serves as president of the Dubai Businesswomen Council, and is a board member of the Dubai Women’s Association and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Known for her promotion of entrepreneurship, Al Gurg is a founding board member of Endeavor UAE, a non-profit organisation promoting high-impact entrepreneurship in emerging and growth markets. Al Gurg also devotes much of her time to the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Charity Foundation and the Al Jalila Foundation, a UAE-based organisation dedicated to transformative contributions to global healthcare. She was awarded the Legion of Honour by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2020 and was appointed Honourary Pro-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University Dubai in 2022.
Mona Zulficar – Founding Partner & Chairman of the Executive Committee of Zulficar & Partners Law Firm
Egyptian Mona Zulficar, a renowned figure in the legal world, has an impressive career spanning over 35 years as a practicing attorney in Cairo. The Founding Partner and Chairman of Zulficar & Partners Law Firm, Zulfikar’s extensive expertise spans a wide range of legal issues, especially in banking, major company restructuring, project finance, and M&A transactions. Among her notable accomplishments are her roles in the facilitation of EgyptAir’s first commercial aircraft mortgage financing in 1989, in orchestrating the sale of Citibank’s retail business to CIB, and in overseeing the sale of Barclays Bank to Attijariwafa Bank. In 2017, she played a pivotal role in handling the ground-breaking FiT Program for the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC), which led to the development and financing of the world’s largest solar park in Benban, near Aswan. Beyond her legal practice, Zulficar has made significant contributions to economic legislation, serving as an advisor to governmental bodies and participating in drafting committees for pivotal laws such as the Telecom Law and Capital Market Regulations in Egypt. Her remarkable achievements have been recognised with prestigious awards, including the Legion of Honour from the President of France in 2008 and the International Financial Law Review Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.
Henadi Al-Saleh – Chairman of Agility’s Board of Directors
Serving with Agility since 2007, Kuwaiti national Henadi Al-Saleh currently holds the pivotal position of Chairman of the Board at the company, where she continues to shape Agility’s success. In this capacity, she presides over the company’s corporate governance program, ensuring the protection of the interests of investors and stakeholders. In 2022 with her at the helm, Agility inked an agreement with the Suez Canal Economic Zone to establish and manage a customs and logistics center within the Suez Canal Economic Zone. Al-Saleh boasts a distinguished global executive career with expertise in financial planning and investor relations. Her previous posts include Head of Debt/Equity Capital Markets at NBK Capital in Kuwait, and Member of the Board of the Gulf Warehousing Company in Qatar.
Hend El Sherbini – CEO of Integrated Diagnostics Holdings (IDH)
Egyptian Hend El Sherbini has held the position of CEO at Integrated Diagnostics Holdings (IDH) since 2012, backed by over 30 years of experience in the healthcare sector that included an eight-year tenure as the CEO of diagnostic centers, Al Mokhtabar. El Sherbini is a valued member of the board at the American Society of Clinical Pathology (Egypt), where her insights and international certification expertise are highly regarded. In 2022, she significantly increased her holdings in IDH, acquiring an additional 7.3 million shares, bringing her ownership share to 26.71%. Further underscoring her strategic leadership, in 2022 IDH and its subsidiary Biolab unveiled an exciting joint venture agreement with Fawaz Alhokair’s Izhoor Holding Medical Company, launching the Greenfield Diagnostic Venture in Saudi Arabia. El Sherbini’s visionary approach continues to drive growth and innovation in the healthcare industry.
Dalia Khorshid – Group CEO & Managing Director of Beltone Financial Holding
Egyptian Dalia Khorshid is Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director at Beltone Financial Holding, a leading, full-fledged investment bank in the MENA Region. Khorshid boasts over 25 years of global experience in various leadership roles across the banking and financial sector, having advised on landmark transactions including private placements, investment strategies, and M&A deals in the region. Formerly, as the Minister of Investment in Egypt she led the reform of the country’s investment law and successfully launched initial public offerings (IPO) in government-owned companies with oil sector businesses. Prior to her ministerial tenure, Khorshid spent 11 years as Executive Vice President & Group Treasurer at Orascom Construction Limited and Head of Investment Banking and Corporate Finance at OCI NV (2008-2016) where she successfully spearheaded the groups’ multi-billion-dollar fundraising initiatives. In 2023, under her leadership, Beltone announced the strategic rebranding of its consumer finance subsidiary, from BelCash, to Seven, reinforcing Beltone’s position as a leading consumer finance powerhouse offering innovative fintech payment solutions.