Industry: Banking and finance
Company: Olayan Financing Company
Country: Saudi Arabia
As the CEO of the Riyadh-based Olayan Financing Company, Lubna Olayan is Saudi Arabia’s most prolific businesswoman.
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.
Olayan’s defining moment came at the Jeddah Economic Forum in 2004, when she became 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.