REVEALED: 100 most powerful Arab women 2013
UAE’s Minister for Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna tops list for third-year running
96 Annemarie Jacir
\nJacir has been working in independent cinema since 1994 and has written, directed and produced a number of award-winning films including Until When, A Few Crumbs for the Birds, and a Post Oslo History. She was named one of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema. Her short film, like twenty impossibles, the first Palestinian short film to be selected in Competition as an official selection at the Cannes International Film Festival (Cinefondation).
\nShe has won more than 15 awards at International festivals including Best Film at the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films, Chicago International Film Festival, Institute Du Monde Arabe Biennale, Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival, and IFP/New York.
95 Ebtisam Abdulaziz
\nEbtisam Abdulaziz is an artist, writer and curator. Her work has been exhibited at a range of venues, from Dubai’s Third Line Gallery to the Sharjah Art Museum. Her work has also been shown in the Denmark National Museum, Copenhagen, the UAE’s platform at the 2009 Venice Biennale, the Kunst Museum, Bonn and the Singapore Biennial. In 2009, she curated the annual Emirati Fine Arts exhibition at the Sharjah Art Museum.
\nHer recent work, entitled Autobiography 2012, is an exploration of ‘system art,’ a term used to describe a type of abstract art characterised by geometric forms, placed either in a single concentrated image or repeated in a system.
94 Faten Al Naqeeb
\nFaten Al Naqeeb is one of the Gulf’s foremost lawyers. She began her career in the law office of Nabeil Al Naqeeb, before moving to the office of Abdulrahman Al Abdulaaly. In 1995 Al Naqeeb introduced and led the international practice at Al Naqeeb & Partners. The firm has regional offices in every GCC state, as well as Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt, the US and the UK. She has counselled several US oil supermajors on their operations in Kuwait, including ExxonMobil. She has a bachelor’s degree in law from Kuwait University and a masters in international law from Cambridge College, UK.
93 Lina Ben Mhenni
\n28-year old Lina Ben Mhenni’s English and Arabic language blog, A Tunisian Girl, was propelled into the international spotlight during the political unrest that toppled her country’s longstanding President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Mhenni’s blog published photographs and videos of those injured during the country’s unrest, taken during her regular trips to hospitals. During the Tunisian Revolution, Ben Mhenni acted as a volunteer correspondent for the international media, including France 2 and France 24.
\nAhlam Ali Al Shamsi, a singer commonly known simply as Ahlam is a popular UAE singer who has garnered a large following across the region thanks to her back catalogue of albums and her role on MBC’s Arab Idol judging panel alongside Lebanese singer Ragheb Alama and Egyptian composer Hassan El Shafei.
\nBorn in Abu Dhabi to Bahraini and Emirati parents, she lived the early part of her life in Bahrain before making her return to the UAE to complete her schooling and attend university.
90 Christine Sfeir
\nChristine Sfeir certainly puts in the hours. In between raising two young children, the 37-year-old Lebanese has also created one of the region’s most successful restaurant empires. At the age of just 22, she persuaded Dunkin’ Donuts to hand over the company’s Lebanese franchise to her. The rest quickly became, with the franchise becoming a huge success in Beirut. Four years ago, she added the Lebanese brand Semsom to the fold, and has expanded it into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Further expansion is planned in India.
89 Hend Sabri
\nTunisian actress Hend Sabri is well known in the Arab world for her role in “Mothakarat Morahiqa” or “A Teenager’s Diaries”. In 2010, the Middle Eastern star was also appointed as ambassador against hunger by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
\nSabry began her acting career and rise to stardom at the age of 15, with a movie by the name of “Mawsim Al-rijal”.\n Following her success in the film industry, she went on to to star in a comedy Ramadan series Ayza Atgawez. Last year, she took time off to look after her baby an participated in some charitable events to promote women’s rights.
\nShe made a welcome return to the region in 2012 when she took up the role as president of the jury at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. She also participated in TROPFEST Arabia in Abu Dhabi, which showcased new upcoming cinema talent from around the region.
\nAmong her many awards are the prize for Best Arab Actress at the Tyche Jordan Awards 2012, the Best Arab Actress at the Lebanese Murex D’Or in 2012, and the Best Arab Actress at last year’s National Egyptian Film Festival. The last two were for her role in Ayza Atgawez.
\nSabry is also a qualified lawyer and the face of Garnier in the Middle East.
87 Muna Abusulayman
\nMuna AbuSulayman was the first Saudi woman to host a non-state television programme and one of the kingdom’s most prominent commentators on culture, society and gender.
\n“In order for women to reach to the top... they need to learn how to network, how to play politics, and this is something they didn’t have to do in the old regime - they were picked and put [there]” AbuSulayman told us last year. “It was imposed, not through her own work — that she would get to be chief judge, or a minister. The problem is we’ve been pampered a little bit. We’ve been chosen — we’ve not had to do the dirty work.”
\nIn 2004, she was named a Young Leader by the World Economic Forum. In addition, AbuSulayman went on to found several companies including Glowork.net; which aims to enhance female employment opportunities and Muna World; a holding company that uses charitable funds from her various businesses to build educational institutions in high conflict areas. She has also created a fashion line which she says “complements her Muslim principles and maintains her chic appearance” and which has been a lucrative entrepreneurial venture.
\nAbuSulayman holds two degrees in English Literature from George Mason University.
86 Dalia Mogahed
\nEgyptian-born Dalia Mogahed was propelled onto the international spotlight when she became the first Muslim veiled woman to be appointed to a position in the White House.
\nMogahed was selected as an advisor to US president Barack Obama on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships in 2009. In addition to this headline-grabbing role, Mogahed also heads up the Gallup American Centre for Muslim Studies, a non-governmental research centre.
80 Nashwa Taher
\nNashwa Taher is director of her family’s Al Taher Group, a Saudi-based conglomerate whose interests range from contracting to foodstuffs.
\nTaher made history in 2005 when she became one of the first Saudi women to win elected office in Saudi Arabia as board member of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Taher became Saudi Arabia’s specialty food pioneer, importing high end products from Italy, after realising the Saudi market was saturated with American products.
76 Wedad Lootah
\nWedad Lootah is an Emirati marriage counsellor but became a notorious author when she published an Arabic sex guide titled Top Secret: Sexual Guidance for Married Couples, in 2009. The book was approved by the Mufti of Dubai, although he did warn that some readers “might not be ready for such a book”. Her frank and open opinions about sensitive sex topics and vivid anecdotes were praised by liberal Muslims but also caused a storm and even death threats from those who consider the book blasphemous.
72 Sulaf Fawakherji
\nA prominent Syrian actress, Sulaf Fawakherji rose to fame in the Arab world through her numerous roles on Syrian soap operas and her subsequent acting career, which established her as one of the leading lights in Arabic cinema. Originally an arts student at Adham Ismail Fine Arts Institute, Fawakherji transitioned towards the theatre, making her debut on stage in plays such as Al Sawt and Hekayat al Shetaa. Fawakherji was chosen as a torchbearer for the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay.
71 Haifa Kaylani
\nHaifa Fahoum Al Kalyani is founder and chairwoman of the Arab International Women’s Forum, an umbrella organisation that brings together 1,500 associations, individuals and corporations based in 45 nations and six continents of the world. Also holding senior roles in several organisations in the UK and internationally as well as seats on the boards of cultural and educational institutions and NGOs, her influence is widely accepted. Al Kaylani was born in Palestine and later migrated to London.
70 Ingie Chalhoub
\nIngie Chalhoub, president and managing director of Etoile Group, is integral to the luxury retail sector of the UAE.
\nSpearheading the fashion powerhouse since establishing the operation in 1983, Chalhoub has brought over 200 international ultra-luxury brands to the region. Among those names are Chanel, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Tod’s, John Galliano and Hogan.
\nShe employs 400 people, operates over 60 high-end fashion boutiques across six countries and has even launched her own fashion line, Ingie Paris.
\nIn 2005 Chaulhoub opened luxury fashion concept, Etoile La Boutique.
\nOutside Etoile, Chalhoub picked up L’Officiel magazine’s 2009 Businesswoman Of The Year Award and is also one of the select few who sit on the board of Dubai International Fashion Week.
69 Zeina Tabari
\nNo one, least of all Zeina Tabari, imagined she would ever work for the family business. The 29-year-old originally wanted to open a chocolate shop after finishing her degree in finance, not work in the HR department of Drake & Scull, the contracting firm run by her father, Khaldoun Tabari. But a three-month internship was quickly followed by a full-time job offer and she seized the opportunity.
\nThe chief corporate affairs officer at Drake & Scull International (DSI), Zeina Tabari has played a key role in one of Dubai’s fastest-growing companies. After completing her BA in Advertising and Marketing from the American University in Dubai, Tabari began her career at DSI as a Human Resources Manager in 2003. She later moved to London’s Webster Graduate School to take on an MBA programme – a step that cemented the ideal foundation to her current role. In 2006, Tabari took a leap on the career ladder and was promoted to corporate service director. It allowed her to oversee the HR planning process across nine varied areas of DSI’s activities. The company’s decision to launch an initial public offering combined with her strengthened abilities in investor relations issues, helped land Tabari her current role.
66 Octavia Nasr
\nJournalist Octavia Nasr is most well known for her coverage of Middle Eastern affairs, including several wars, for Lebanon Broadcasting Corporation (1988-1990) and CNN (1990-2010) and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage their use of social networks.
\nShe has also become a regular commentator on Middle Eastern affairs.
65 Sulafa Memar
\nHaving firmly cemented her status as a media darling, Sulafa Memar has won numerous accolades for high-profile and challenging roles. In 2007, she walked away with top prize at the Algerian Film Festival for her efforts in ‘Tahta Al Sakef’. Memar won legions of loyal fans for her key role in ‘Disgraced Time’, a show which netted the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Prize for best Arabian Drama. In 2009, she was awarded the ultimate accolade when presented with Best Actress In The Arab World Award.
64 Nashwa Al Ruwaini
\nOften called the Oprah Winfrey of the Arab world, Nashwa Al Ruwaini has made her mark as a TV personality and producer. Born in Cairo, started her career on Qatari radio before becoming the youngest Arab woman on TV, working for Qatar TV. She then moved to London, then Cairo, before establishing her own production company Pyramedia in 1998. Her production company is now one of the largest in the region producing TV shows such as the Million’s Poet and her self-titled talk show ‘Nashwa’.
62 Zainab Salbi
\nZainab Salbi is the founder of Women for Women International and was its CEO from 1993 to 2011, helping female war survivors rebuild their lives by giving them access to social opportunities. Since 1993, the organisation claims to have distributed more than $103m in direct aid and micro credit loans and has impacted more than 1.7 million people. Salbi has been named one of the Top 100 Women Activists by the Guardian, and a Female Faith Heroine by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
59 Manal Al Sharif
\nThe 33-year old single mother and information technology specialist became a global icon last year after she defied Saudi Arabian laws and uploaded a YouTube video of herself driving a car. She was later stopped by authorities and spent nine days in jail. Her plight was taken up by the “Women2Drive” campaign and a Facebook page organising calling for Saudi women to be allowed to drive and own a licence ran a banner stating: “We are all Manal Sharif”.
56 Najwa Karam
\nThe 47-year old Lebanese native of Zahle is part of Prince Alwaleed’s Rotana and is also L’Oreal’s ambassador in the Middle East. The singer, producer and writer sold her first album in 1989 has sold over 50 million albums across the Arab world. She was recognised as the highest-selling Middle Eastern artist in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008.
\nKaram has produced nineteen albums in her career so far - her 20th record is set to be released later this year. She is also a bona-fide television superstar.
54 Noor Sweid
\nNoor Sweid is the strategic director of the Dubai-based private stock company Depa United Group.
\nSweid began her career as a financial manager for Charles Schwab in Boston, followed by a stint at Accenture before she came to Dubai and became part of the team that expanded DIFC. Locally, she’s a fixture on the young women’s business circuit, as the Middle East chapter head of 85Broads, a network of former Goldman exployees and graduates of top management schools. She also launched ZenYoga, a popular chain of yoga studios.
\nDepa specialises in the full-scope turnkey fit-out and furnishing of five-star luxury hotels, yachts, apartments, and other fine private and public facilities in Dubai and around the world.
\nThe firm has steadily grown and expanded throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
\nAmong the projects that the company has worked on include the Dubai Metro, terminals 1 and 3 at Dubai International Airport, the Atlantis resort on the Palm Jumeirah and the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.
\nIts blue-chip clients include Etisalat, Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental, Warner Brothers, Giorgio Armani and Emaar.
52 Buthaina Al Ansari
\nA high-flying and inspiring business executive in Qatar, Buthaina Al Ansari received a Qatar Business Women Award for her Qatarisation work at Al Rayan Investment.
\nUsing her degrees from universities in Qatar, London and Cairo, she founded and manages Qatariat, a company that specialises in helping Qatari women advance into the workforce. Qatariat has three elements: the Qatariat Training and Development, Qatariat Magazine, and the Qatariat Development Consultancy.
\nAl Ansari is a born leader and actively promotes positive change for her country and the emerging talent of Qatari women. As Senior HR Director of QTel she leads with passion and integrity and continues to challenge the status quo.
\nAs an entrepreneur and Chairperson of Qatariat T&D she collaborates with innovative and best-in-class organisations to raise the benchmark and quality of expertise in Qatar.
\nAl Ansari has a masters degree in business management and HR strategic planning from Qatar University, as well as a masters in HR from the American University in Cairo.
\nShe was voted L’Officiel Qatar’s most inspirational Arab woman of the year in 2012.
50 Noura Al Kaabi
\nNoura Al Kaabi took over the top job at Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 - a media development and training zone in the UAE capital - from former CEO Tony Orsten in April last year. She is also a board member of Abu Dhabi Media Company, Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Flash Entertainment. She also sits on the Advisory Board for Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Tawteen, an initiative by Emirates Foundation.
\nThis year, Al Kaabi was handed the Media CEO of the Year award by this magazine.
49 Cyrine Abdelnour
\nCyrine Abdelnour has come a long way from her modelling days and time at the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation where she played key roles in a number of television series. The 35-year-old brunette starred in Al Marouk (The Traveller) with legendary Egyptian actor Omar Al Sharif, which debuted at the Venice Film Festival. Other films include Smoke Without Fire, an Egyptian/Lebanese collaboration, as well as the TV show Mariana. Abdelnour has also released three albums with record label Rotana.
\nElissa needs little introduction having enjoyed an extraordinary career for over a decade. The Lebanese-Syrian artist released her eighth studio album, As’ad Wahda, last year, collaborating with poet Baha Al Din, composers Mohamed Yahia, Rami Jamal, Mohamad Dia and Lebanese singer, writer and song writer Marwan Khoury. A recipient of the World Music Award for the best-selling artist in the Middle East, the singer is so famous she prefers to be known by just her first name, lining up alongside the likes of Madonna and Cher.
41 Nancy Ajram
\nLebanese superstar Nancy Ajram is one of the most successful Arab singers of all time. With eight albums and numerous chart-topping singles to her name, many consider her to be among the top Arabic music icons of the decade. In 2008 she was named the best-selling artist in the Middle East at the World Music Awards, and two years later achieved wide acclaim when she sang ‘Wavin’ Flag’ for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. US TV icon Oprah Winfrey has also branded her one of the most influential personalities in the Middle East.
39 Nadine Labaki
\nArguably the best known auteur in the Arab music video world, the 36-year-old Lebanese actress and director is often credited for bringing new artists onto the burgeoning Arab pop scene.
\nHer 2007 breakout debut, Caramel, became an international sensation which showed the less-seen side of Beirut — a romantic comedy centered on five women who gather regularly at a beauty salon to discuss love, life and sex. The movie landed Labaki on Variety’s annual list of ten directors to watch. Her second feature film, Where Do We Go Now?, scooped prizes around the world, including the people’s choice award at the Toronto Film Festival. As a songwriter, her regular collaborations with pop star Nancy Ajram have helped Labaki push forward a more modern take on the current state of Arab womanhood.
38 Jouhayna Samawi
\nJouhayna Samawi is one half of a husband-and-wife team that is revolutionising the region’s art industry.
\nFounded by collectors and cousins Khaled and Hisham Samawi, alongside Jouhayna, in Damascus in 2006, Ayyam Gallery successfully revived interest in Syria’s art history whilst at the same time nurturing the country’s burgeoning and dynamic contemporary art scene. Landmark non-profit initiatives such as the Shabab Ayyam Project, an incubator for emerging artists, demonstrated Ayyam Gallery’s commitment to bringing the new wave of Syrian artists to international attention. Ayyam Gallery Damascus currently functions as a studio and creative haven for artists who remain in the war-torn city.
\nExpansion into Beirut and Dubai enabled Ayyam Gallery to broaden its scope from the promotion of work by Syrian artists to those from the wider Middle East region.nificant region.
\nToday, Ayyam Gallery is recognised as a leading cultural voice in the region, representing a roster of Arab and Iranian artists with an international profile and museum presence, such as Nadim Karam, Safwan Dahoul, Samia Halaby, Sadik Alfraji, Afshin Pirhashemi and Khaled Takreti. In January 2013, Ayyam Gallery launched a new space in London, with a second to open in Jeddah in late-February.
36 Hala Gorani
\nCNN’s Hala Gorani is a prominent US-based journalist. Known for her hard-hitting news reports in the region, she has now covered every single Middle Eastern country, not to mention a large number of major events from the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war to the Arab Spring. Born in Seattle, Washington, Gorani has a Middle Eastern background, with parents from Aleppo in Syria. She spent much of her childhood in Paris, France, and also in Algeria. Gorani now anchors CNN’s International Desk.
35 Manahel Thabet
\nThe youngest – and only – Arab with a PhD in Financial Engineering, she writes research papers on quantum mathematics. Her work to revolutionize our understanding of math and physics is poised to earn her a second PhD. Thabet, the winner of L’Officiel’s Inspirational Woman of the Year award in 2010, is also an active member of MENSA, Young Arab Leaders, and the International Association of Financial Engineers. This is all in addition to her day job as President of SmartTips Consultants, a management consultancy.
33 Nayla Al Khaja
\nNayla Al Khaja, the UAE’s first ever female filmmaker, has already made three short features in her brief career.
\nOne of Al Khaja’s films won a prize at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2007. In addition, the Emirati has also set up her own production company (D-SEVEN), and she also heads up the UAE’s first official film club. Al Khaja’s career choice coupled with her willingness to tackle taboo subjects has often led to controversy. Her last short film, which was released in 2010, took a look at the issues raised by arranged marriages. In ‘Malal’, a young Emirati couple visits Kerala on a honeymoon that is soured by the wife’s boredom with her new husband. In December the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority commissioned Al Khaja and Ali M Mostafa to make short films for the authority’s new cultural initiative, Soul of Dubai.
32 Nisreen Shocair
\nNisreen Shocair took over the helm of Virgin Megastores, Middle East in 2006 and has overseen the brand’s transformation from a CD and DVD store to a one-stop shop for music, video and multimedia entertainment.
\nShocair, who grew up in Nigeria, started her entertainment career working at a local Blockbuster store in Texas before finishing her degree and joining Sony in the early 1990s. In addition to her role at Virgin, Shocair also sits on the advisory board of several digital and environmental start-ups and has become something of a household name in the UAE after starring as a judge in the hit television show, The Entrepreneur.
\nKnown as the Arabs’ ambassador and the ‘Jewel of Lebanon’, Fairuz is still considered one of the greats of the Middle East music scene. Fairuz received her education in Beirut and started her musical career as a chorus singer at the Lebanese radio station. In the 1950s, her career took off as her music became more popular and her status grew dramatically. Today, she is revered in the region and is often received by royalty and presidents. Although she has never sung in Jerusalem, the key to the holy city is among her most prized possessions.
29 Salma Hareb
\nFormer lab technologist Salma Hareb studied for diplomas in IT and business while also holding down a job at Dubai’s Department of Health before she decided on a change of career. In 1997, she started working as a planner for Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA), the operator of one of Dubai’s busiest free zones. Hareb quickly moved up the ranks and in 2005 was appointed the CEO of JAFZA and parent company Economic Zones World. As a result, she became the first woman in the Middle East to lead a free zone.
27 Nahed Taher
\nSaudi-born Dr Nahed Taher is the only woman in the Gulf to head up a bank - Gulf One Investment Bank, which she co-founded in 2005 after her tenure as a senior economist at Saudi Arabia’s NCB. Taher has broken the glass ceiling on more than one occasion. She turned down a high powered job with the International Monetary Fund to return home, eager “to do something for my own country” before being hired as the first woman by NCB. Taher is also a strong advocate for a greater role for women in the kingdom.
25 Raja Easa Saleh Al Gurg
\nRaja Easa Saleh Al Gurg wears many hats. Not only is she the managing director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, the firm of which her father is chairman, but she is also president of the Dubai Business Women’s Council. Al Gurg is also deputy chairperson of the board of directors at Dubai Healthcare City Authority, and a board member at both the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Dubai Women’s Council. She is also a member of the Dubai Economic Council.
24 Hayat Sindi
\nHayat Sindi’s story of arriving in London in the early 90s with no command of the English language and no promised university place may now be folklore in scientific circles but that doesn’t stop the Saudi’s astonishing medical career being any less extraordinary. Sindi has since been credited with the invention of MARS, which combines the effects of light and sound for use in biotechnology. She co-founded Diagnostics for All, and is a fellow at PopTech, which offers fellowships to young scientists.
23 Randa Ayoubi
\nRanda Ayoubi survived on an initial investment of $140,000 for a decade before persuading family and friends to invest $3m.
\nThe result was Rubicon Holdings, an Amman-based entertainment company, which is now a global powerhouse with five international branches and more than 300 employees. Rubicon Holdings produces hits such as Ben & Izzy, a children’s cartoon series promoting cross-cultural understanding between the Middle East and the West. In addition to her work with Rubicon, Ayoubi also mentors a number of budding entrepreneurs, a subject she is clearly passionate about, having endured the struggles of her own business.
\n“I always tell young people…that you just need to forge forward with or without government [support],” she told CEO Middle East last year.
20 Hessa Al Jaber
\nAs Qatar bids to become the most connected country in the region and build up its knowledge economy, Hessa Al Jaber’s role is of vital importance. The country’s internet penetration is the highest in the Arab world, and on a par with that of the UK and South Korea. Al Jaber has led Qatar’s ICT strategy across sectors since ictQATAR (the regulator)’s establishment in 2004, spearheading major initiatives in government, education and business. Al Jaber is also involved in philanthropy.
18 Mona Al Marri
\nLast year, Mona Al Marri was appointed director general of the Dubai government media office, replacing Ahmad Al Sheikh. A former PR guru, Al Marri was appointed CEO of Brand Dubai, the emirate’s first state media office, three years ago. Right now, she is in charge of shaping Dubai’s image to the media both at home and abroad. She is vice president of the Dubai Ladies Club and a board leader of Young Arab Leaders. Al Marri holds an MBA from the Higher Colleges of Technology.
16 Sheikha Hessa Bint Saad Abdullah Salem Al Sabah
\nSheikha Hessa is president of the Council of Arab Businesswomen (CABW). She is a successful entrepreneur with past work at the International Marine Petroleum Company, and within the Ministry of Defense’s Department of Medical Services.
\nWith reference to women’s empowerment in the workplace, she served on several committees, including the Kuwait Volunteers Women Society, the Kuwait Businesswomen Committee, Arab African Woman Council, and the Women’s Affairs Committee.
\nSheikha Hessa has served as the head of the Council for Arab Businesswomen since 1999 and has been recognised by a series of regional and international organisations.
15 Fatema Mernissi
\nFatema Mernissi has published several books on the position of women in the rapidly changing Muslim communities in Morocco.
\nIn 1975 she published the result of her first fieldwork: Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society. Much of her work has been translated in many languages and is widely read, also in Islamic countries. In the 1980s she directed sociological research for UNESCO, ILO and the United Nations Population Fund. This resulted in a book with selected interviews. In the 1990s, Mernissi stopped working on women’s issues and switched to civil society as her major topic. She has served as a member in many national, pan-Arabic and international forums on women and development in the Islamic world. She is currently a lecturer of sociology at the Mohammed V University of Rabat.
14 Leila El Solh
\nLeila El Solh, the youngest daughter of the late former Lebanese prime minister Riad El Solh, might have made her name in politics – she was the first woman in the country’s history to hold a cabinet position when she took on the Minister of Industry brief in 2004 – but today she is best known for her work with the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation in Lebanon. In 2008, she was awarded the Pontifical Medal by Pope Benedict XVI.
13 Amina Al Rustamani
\nDr Amina Al Rustamani started her career in 2001 as a project engineer in Dubai Media City. Just over a decade later, she has become one of the Arab world’s most powerful women, looking after 4,500 companies at TECOM Business Parks.
\nHer rise to the top was nothing short of meteoric. She quickly began working on different projects related to broadcasting, and within four years of joining was a director in the company, having worked in the sales, marketing and technical design sides of the business. She was promoted to become the broadcast director at Dubai Media City, and became instrumental in the launch of Dubai Studio City, before becoming Dubai Media City’s executive director. Then in 2008, just seven years after first joining the company, she was appointed as CEO of TECOM Business Parks. She is a board member of Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI), and also sits on the boards of Lamtara, Tunisia Telecom and the Dubai Holding Audit Committee. Al Rostamani has also played a significant role in establishing Dubai International Film Festival and is a regular contributor to leading technical journals in the fields of wireless technology.
\n“Could we get to 7,000 companies in ten years? Yes, we could get to that,” she told us last year.
\nYousra is perhaps the Arab world’s biggest entertainment superstar.
\nShe first started making films in the 1970s, and quickly developed a strong working relationship with the legendary Egyptian actor Adel Imam. Perhaps her best-known collaborations were with director Youssef Chahine, with whom she made three films. Yousra’s portfolio also includes a number of TV shows that have been popular during Ramadan, and a supporting role in the Yacoubian Building, which had the highest budget of any Egyptian film at the time it was made in 2006.
\nShe is also a well-known singer, and has worked as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
11 Tawakkul Karman
\nTwo years on from the start of the Arab Spring, Tawakkul Karman spends her time travelling around the world raising the profile of her country, Yemen, and promoting her moderate party, Islah. Last year, she became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize – aged just 32.
\nIn her own country, of course, she has been working hard to promote freedom of speech for years. In 2005, she set up the campaign group Women Journalists Without Chains, and commenced holding protests in the Yemeni capital, two years later. But Karman really hit the international headlines during the protests in 2011, when she led a series of protests calling for the departure of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. For now, she believes that the West needs to help the Arab Spring states further, and is campaigning for that support.
\n“I have always believed that resistance against repression and violence is possible without relying on similar repression and violence. I have always believed that human civilization is the fruit of the effort of both women and men,” she said in her Nobel prize acceptance speech.
9 Dr Mona AlMunajjed
\nDr Mona Al Munajjed is not only Saudi Arabia’s foremost sociologist – she’s a high-profile women’s activist as well. She has spent fifteen years working and advising various UN international agencies, including the International Labour Office, the UN International Children’s Fund, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
\nSome of Al Munajjed’s work for ESCWA involved helping local NGOs in Saudi Arabia, particularly by providing technical assistance and advisory services to women’s welfare associations in Jeddah, Riyadh, Al Qassim, Ha’il and other areas.
\nAl Munajjed has also carried out work for the UN International Children’s Fund (UNICEF). On a field work mission to Abha and Assir in Saudi Arabia, she undertook a health awareness programme for the promotion of knowledge about the advantages of breastfeeding and oral rehydration therapy. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from American University in Beirut, a master’s in the same discipline from New York University and a doctorate from George Washington University in Washington DC.
\nBetween 2008 and 2011, she worked as a senior advisor at Booz & Co’s Riyadh office, where she wrote in-depth reports on social issues in the Arab region. She received the UN-21 Award for excellence, outstanding coordination and individual productivity in 2005.\nShe has spoken at many international forums and conferences, including the General Electric Women’s Forum in New York, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Amsterdam, the World Crafts Council in Chennai, and the UNESCO World Forum on Culture and Cultural Industries, in Monza, Italy.
\nAl Munajjed is also a published author; her books include ‘Saudi Women Speak; 24 Remarkable Women Tell Their Success Stories (2006) and Women in Saudi Arabia Today (1997).
8 Nayla Hayek
\nNayla Hayek was elected chairwoman of the Swatch Group, the largest manufacturer of finished watches in the world, in July 2010.
\nHayek, whose father co-founded the company, has been an active member of the board ever since her appointment in 1995. When her father died in 2010 he was ranked the 232nd richest person in the world with an estimated wealth of $3.9bn.
\nSwatch’s importance lies not just in the fact that it is such a huge manufacturer; it makes most of the parts that make other Swiss watches tick. The firm has been on the acquisition war path in recent years; its stable of brands includes Breguet, Blancpain, Omega, Longines and Tissot. In January, the watch giant announced it had acquired the Harry Winston Diamond Corp.’s luxury goods operation in a deal valued at as much as $1bn. Hayek splits her time between Biel, Switzerland, and Dubai. She is an international Arabian horse judge.
5 Fatima Al Jaber
\nNow 43 years old, Al Jaber Group is one of the UAE’s top companies. In her position as chief operating officer of the Abu Dhabi-based group, Fatima Al Jaber oversees more than 60,000 staff and manages around $4.9bn in assets.
\nThe conglomerate, which has built a number of iconic projects across the UAE, was founded by her father, Obaid Al Jaber, 40 years ago. Prior to her appointment at the firm four years ago Al Jaber had a hugely successful career at the public works department at Abu Dhabi Municipality. She is a regular speaker at business conferences across the region as well as a high profile ambassador for women in the workplace. She is also fiercely proud of the opportunities available for Emirati women.
\n“Everything is there; if a woman wants to start a business she can. If she wants to work in government, she can find a job. If she wants to study, there are all sorts of education venues and places to study. The choices are all there,” she told CEO Middle East recently. Al Jaber became the first Emirati woman to be elected to the board of directors at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce in December 2009.
4 Zaha Hadid
\nKnown as the ‘Starchitect’, Dame Zaha Hadid’s designs immediately lend superstar quality to any building project. Last year, the Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre was rated by many as perhaps the most beautiful of all the buildings constructed to host London’s Olympic Games.
\nShe is famous for consistently pushing the boundaries of modern architecture and urban design. The Iraqi-born architect became the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize for Architecture in its 26-year history in 2004 and has won a string of other accolades since, including the Stirling prize for two years running and a prestigious architecture prize for the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome. Right now, Hadid’s work is receiving rave reviews in China, where her Wangjing SOHO office and retail complex is set to open next year. She is also working on the King Abdullah Petroleum and Studies and Research Centre in Riyadh.
\nHadid, who studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, has designed a number of renowned buildings including Maggie’s Centre at the Victoria Hospital in Scotland and the Bridge Pavilion in Spain. In 2010, her London-based architectural firm was commissioned to design the new building for the Central Bank of Iraq, her first project in her native country. Hadid is yet to visit the site, but the plans are still in place. In an interview with the Telegraph newspaper last year, she said: “I have not been back for more than 30 years. My resistance has nothing to do with the state of affairs there; it’s to do with my personal, emotional return. It’s a bit traumatic, going back after so many years and you don’t know anyone.”
\nMore recently, Hadid has also been vocal about the role of female architects in her adopted home country, claiming that she has faced more misogynism in London than elsewhere in the Europe. “I have noticed it is easier for me in European countries than it is here. In the UK it is more difficult. They are very conservative,” she said.
\nHadid was appointed Dame Commander last year, and was named one of the UK’s most top 100 powerful women by the BBC’s Woman’s Hour radio show last month.
3 Princess Ameerah Al Taweel
\n“We’re creating the first women leaders network in Saudi Arabia,” Princess Ameerah told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in October last year.
\n“We have women leaders in different sectors. They get together, they set priorities and how to tackle these priorities and reach their voices to the right people. This is a step that I think will create a positive change.” The wife of HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Princess Ameerah is now one of the world’s most recognised philanthropists through her work at her husband’s foundation. She supports a wide range of humanitarian interests both in Saudi Arabia and across the world. Princess Ameerah has opened an orphanage in Burkina Faso, and spearheaded humanitarian trips to Pakistan and Somalia.
\nShe is a member of the board of trustees at the Doha-based Silatech organisation, and formally opened the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for Islamic Studies at Cambridge University in the UK, alongside Prince Philip. Princess Ameerah received the Humanitarian Award on behalf of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation at the Arabian Business Achievement Awards in 2010.
2 Lubna Olayan
\nYou could never accuse Lubna Olayan of not standing up for the rights of Arab women.
\nEarlier this year, at Davos, she joined a select panel of some of the planet’s most powerful women to discuss the ‘glass ceiling’.
\n“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.
\nAs 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.
\nOne 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.
\nDuring 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.”
\nOlayan 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.
1 Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi
\nFor the third year running, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi – the UAE’s first female minister - has made it to the top of our women’s power list. Given that her job as Minister for Foreign Trade involves promoting greater ties with the UAE’s international partners – a vital plank of the country’s economy – perhaps that’s no surprise. In 2012, non-oil foreign trade rose by 15 percent to $980bn and under Sheikha Lubna’s management, the number is projected to easily top $1 trillion in 2013.
\nThe Emirati national’s background lies in IT; she won plaudits for developing a system that slashed cargo turnaround times at Dubai airport, and in 2000 founded Tejari, the Middle East’s first business-to-business online marketplace. The firm, which is now one of Dubai World’s most successful units, has franchises across the Middle East and was initially funded by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and prime minister of the UAE. Sheikha Lubna was appointed to her first ministerial post in November 2004 – becoming Minister of Economy and Planning, before taking the Minister of Foreign Trade brief afterwards.
\nThe minister is currently working hard to sign off the US Middle East Free Trade Area. But amidst her whirlwind tours around the world, Sheikha Lubna has still managed to retain her own business interests, which have included setting up a perfume line. The minister also sits on the board of directors at the Dubai Chamber for Commerce and Industry, and is on the board at the National US Arab Chamber of Commerce.