100 most powerful Arab women 2013
Lubna Olayan
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Lubna Olayan

Industry: Banking and finance

Company: Olayan Financing Company

Designation: CEO

Country: Saudi Arabia

Occupation: CEO

You could never accuse Lubna Olayan of not standing up for the rights of Arab women.

Earlier this year, at Davos, she joined a select panel of some of the planet’s most powerful women to discuss the ‘glass ceiling’.

“We have to get the CEOs in major Arab countries to be convinced to hire women and mentor women, because that is what we need,” she said.

As the CEO of the Riyadh-based Olayan Financing Company, Lubna Olayan is one of Saudi Arabia’s most prolific businesswomen. The group, which was founded by her father in 1947, is one of the kingdom’s most successful conglomerates with operations spanning distribution, manufacturing, services and investments, across the Middle East. The firm is also one of the largest investors in the Saudi and regional stock markets.

One of Olayan’s most defining moments was speaking at the Jeddah Economic Forum in 2004 and becoming the first woman to speak at a mixed conference in Saudi Arabia.

During her speech Olayan called for a country in which “any Saudi citizen, irrespective of gender who is serious about finding employment, can find a job in the field for which he or she is best qualified, leading to a thriving middle class and in which all Saudi citizens, residents or visitors to the country feel safe and can live in an atmosphere where mutual respect and tolerance exist among all, regardless of their social class, religion or gender.”

Olayan sits on the board of trustees of the Arab Thought Foundation - a Beirut-based think tank focusing on issues facing the Arab world - and is a member of the board of Al Fanar, which supports grassroots organisations in the Arab world. She is also involved with academic institutions such as INSEAD, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the Effat College for Women.