On the cusp of International Women’s Day next month, Forbes Middle East has unveiled its annual Power Businesswomen in the Middle East list, packed with 100 exceptional businesswomen at the head of many of the most influential and transformational companies in the region.
Most of the people on this list have been working their way up a steep career ladder for decades to reach the top of their professions. And let’s not forget how much the world has moved on in those decades. If there were glass ceilings to be smashed, these are the titans that first smashed them.
In the 2020 list, there are 22 new entries and 23 nationalities represented across 28 sectors. Emiratis are the most prevalent nationality with 23 entries. There are also nine Egyptians, eight Lebanese and eight Omani women. British women have the highest representation among non-Arabs, with seven entries. The top 10 is dominated by Saudis, with three of the country’s biggest names in the top five: Samba Financial Group’s Rania Nashar, Tadawul’s Sarah Al Suhaimi and Saudi British Bank’s Lubna Olayan.
Our list was constructed via nominations and through in-depth research based on criteria including the size of the businesses that these women head, their accomplishments over the last year, the initiatives they champion, and their overall work experience.
The majority (79) of the 100 women are self-made, 16 of whom have started their own businesses. And 21 women work in their family businesses, with many of them starting out when it was rare to find women in the workplace. There are 21 women from the banking and financial services sector, including four from stock exchanges and financial regulators.
The public sector is also well represented, with 13 women on our list heading government organizations, including Director General of Smart Dubai, Aisha Bin Bishr, who is overseeing Dubai’s digital transformation. Or Sarah Al Suhaimi who chairs Tadawul, the region’s biggest stock exchange, which recently handled the IPO of the world’s most valuable company, Aramco.
Half of the list head large corporations, including Nadia Al Saeed, who runs Jordan’s fourth biggest lender, Bank al Etihad, and Pakinam Kafafi, CEO of Egyptian energy company, Taqa Arabia, who is the only female leader in the oil and gas sector on our list.
The Middle East’s outstanding female leadership was reflected internationally in 2019 when Forbes’ list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women featured three women from this region—who now make up our top three. Raja Al Gurg (#84 on the Forbes list) manages her family’s business, which was first founded by her father. Indian national Renuka Jagtiani (#96 on the Forbes list) has built a retail empire in the UAE. And Rania Nashar (#97 on the Forbes list) became the first female CEO of Samba Financial Group in 2017, Saudi Arabia’s fourth-biggest bank by assets.
“These Arab women are not only driving economic growth in the region, but they are also representative of the Middle East’s strong female leadership and influence across all areas of life from e-commerce to financial services,” says Khuloud Al Omian, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Middle East.
Take a look at the full list and get to know the Middle East’s most successful female business leaders.
Top 10 Middle East Power Businesswomen
Raja Easa Al Gurg
Managing Director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group
CEO of the Landmark Group
CEO of Samba Financial Group
Sarah Al Suhaimi
Chairperson of Tadawul
Chairperson of the Saudi British Bank
Managing Director for the Southern & Eastern Mediterranean Region at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
CEO of the Morocco’s Capital Market Authority
Wadha Ahmed Al-Khateeb
Deputy CEO of the Kuwait National Petroleum Company
Mona Yousuf Almoayyed
Managing Director of Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons
Aisha Bin Bishr
Director General of Smart Dubai