Top 5 Powerful Business Women in Middle East

1. Lubna S. Olayan

Lubna S. Olayan leads Olayan Financing Company, one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest family-owned conglomerates, which operates 40-plus companies. A trailblazer, she helped break the corporate gender barrier in Saudi Arabia, when she joined her father’s holding in 1983 at a time when few women held executive positions.

In 2004, she became the first woman in the country elected to the board of a publicly traded company, Saudi Hollandi Bank, in which Olayan Saudi Investment Company has a stake. This past April, she joined the board of Saudi mining company Ma’aden as a representative of the country’s Public Investment Fund. Olayan completed her undergraduate studies in agriculture at Cornell University in 1977, and earned an MBA from Indiana University in 1979.

2. Lobna Helal

The President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi appointed Lobna Helal Deputy Governor of Egypt’s Central Bank last year. The country is struggling with high inflation and a weak pound, but this isn’t Helal’s first tour at the bank. In 2011, she became the first woman to serve on its board, as Second Deputy Governor, before resigning in 2013.

Between her stints, she became chair and managing director of the Egyptian Company for Mortgage Refinance. Helal also serves as deputy chair of the Egyptian Banking Institute, the official training arm of the central bank, and recently joined Telecom Egypt’s board.

3. Raja Easa Al Gurg

Raja Easa Al Gurg has overseen the powerful Al Gurg Group, one of the U.A.E.’s oldest family firms, since 1990. Founded five decades ago, the conglomerate operates 28 companies and boasts 370 partnerships with multinationals, such as Unilever, British American Tobacco, and Siemens.

Al Gurg sits on several corporate boards, including HSBC Bank Middle East, and Coutts Bank. She’s frequently part of official trade delegations, and is also active in philanthropic and women societies in the U.A.E. Al Gurg earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Kuwait University in 1977.

4. Sarah Al Suhaimi

She is the first woman to hold this positionin UAE. She also retains her position as the CEO and a member of the Board of Directors of NCB Capital, the investment arm of the National Commercial Bank. Al Suhaimi has served a two-year term as the Vice Chairperson of the Advisory Committee to the Board of the Capital Market Authority. Her father, Jammaz Al Suhaimi, also headed the Capital Market Authority.

5. Rania Mahmoud Nashar

Rania Nashar is the first female CEO of a listed Saudi Commercial Bank, The Samba Financial Group. She is also a board member of Samba Bank Limited in Pakistan and Samba Global Markets Limited Company. Nashar has been with Samba Bank for over 20 years, she started off as Technology and Quality Coordinator after completing her BSc. in Computer Science and Information Technology from King Saud University.

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