4 Saudi women on Forbes list of most influential businesswomen in MENA region

Four Saudi women are among MENA region’s most influential and successful businesswomen listed by Forbes this year. The list featured representatives of 19 different nationalities and 17 sectors.

Saudi women on the list are: Sarah Al-Suhaimi, Hutham Olayan, Lubna Olayan and Basma Al-Maiman.

Ranked 4th on the list is Sarah Al-Suhaimi who is the first Saudi woman to chair the Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange (Tadawul), which is the largest stock market in the Middle East.

In April 2021, the Saudi Stock Exchange was transformed into a holding company with four subsidiaries, including the stock exchange. The Saudi Tadawul Group was listed on the Saudi Stock Exchange in December 2021.

Al-Suhaimi is also a board member of the Saudi Telecom Company, the Saudi Arabian Airlines Public Agency, and the Cultural Development Fund. She is a trustee of the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation.

Ranked in the 6th place is Hutham Olayan, chairwoman of the Olayan Group. Founded by Suleiman Olayan 75 years ago as a contracting and trading company in Saudi Arabia, the group today has a diversified commercial, industrial and investment portfolio.

The family owns 4.9% of Credit Suisse, which amounted to $1.3 billion as of January 2022, and 20.3% of the Saudi British Bank (SABB) worth $4.1 billion.

The group’s real estate assets include 550 Madison Avenue in New York, Knightsbridge Estate in London and Hotel Ritz in Madrid. In Saudi Arabia it bottles Coca-Cola, operates Burger King restaurants, and manufactures cans and paper. In January 2021, Olayan was appointed to the Board of Directors of Brookfield Asset Management Inc.

Ranked in the 11th place is Lubna Olayan. After serving as CEO of Olayan Finance for more than 33 years, Olayan announced her retirement in 2019. She became chair of SABB's board in June 2019. The bank generated $1.5 billion in total operating income in the first nine months of 2021.

She also chaired the Board of Directors of Alawwal Bank, which merged with SABB last March. Olayan was the first woman to join the board of directors of a company listed in Saudi Arabia.

She sits on the boards of Olayan Finance, Schlumberger and Ma'aden, and sits on the international advisory boards of Akbank, Allianz SE, McKinsey & Co, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She is also a trustee of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the Asian Business Council.

Finally, ranked 15th on the Forbes list is Basma Al-Maiman who assumed her current position in 2018, becoming the first GCC national to serve a leadership position in the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and the first woman to spreadhead the region in the organization's history.

UNWTO opened its first Middle East regional office in Riyadh in 2021. She was recognized by the World Bank as one of the youngest CEOs in the MENA region in 2020.

Forbes reported that it compiled the list according to revenues, assets, AUM, market capitalization, and number of employees, accomplishments achieved over the last year by the businesswomen, designation, overall work experience, CSR and other initiatives led by the businesswomen

According to Forbes Middle East, more than 25% of women on this year's list led regional offices and divisions of multinational companies in the region, such as: Saeeda Jaffar of Visa, Derya Matras of Meta, Sophie Doireau of Cartier, in addition to Rima Assi of McKinsey & Company.