Bahraini women feature prominently in the Forbes 2017 list of the 100 Most Powerful Arab businesswomen. We celebrate this achievement with this special feature looking at these women and why they so richly deserve to be recognized:
Mona Almoayyed – Managing Director, YK Almoayyed & Sons
“I am really very passionate about what I do. I love the family business but I also love the causes that I work for;” Mona Almoayyed.
At ninth place on Forbes’ list, Mona Almoayyed hardly fits the profile of an average business leader; particularly given all her dedicated service to the cause workers’ rights with the Migrant Workers Protection Society. This extends to Mona’s prioritization of her own workers’ rights and privileges and her efforts to support unemployed Bahrainis in returning to work. She places a premium on encouraging the employment of local Bahraini staff and is the patron of a number of vocational training programmes.
Mona Almoayyed is managing director of one of the oldest family businesses in Bahrain, founded 77 years ago by her father. Almoayyed was the first Bahraini woman to be elected to the board of a publicly traded company (BMMI) and the first woman to be elected to the Board of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Mona was also chosen by CNN in 2016 as one of the top six businesswomen shaking up the Middle East’s business world.
YK Almoayyed & Sons group is active across a range of industry sectors such as building materials, medical goods, luxury items and car sales. The company represents over 300 brands, including Nissan and Komatsu. Almoayyed serves as the vice chairwoman of The Ebdaa Bank for Micro Financing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
“Times are changing for women, even in the Arab world. Barriers are being lifted;” Mona Almoayyed.
Suha Karzoon – Chief Financial Officer, Mumtalakat Holding Company
“This is a true testament to the focus and efforts that Mumtalakat as a company and the Kingdom as a whole, exert to promote gender diversity – as well as supporting women in leadership roles;” Suha Karzoon.
Having held prominent roles in Tamkeen, Alba and Mumtalakat, Suha has enviable levels of expertise in running some of the most important companies for Bahrain’s economy. Suha Karzoon has had over 20 years of experience of working in the sectors of insurance, financial services, and public sector roles. Before joining Mumtalakat (Bahrain’s principal sovereign wealth fund), Suha held senior roles at Tamkeen (the Labour Fund), with responsibility for Tamkeen’s internal operating units, including HR, finance, legal and IT.
She joined Mumtalakat in autumn 2014, where she is currently the chief financial officer, with responsibility for the domains of finance and capital markets. Suha is in charge of “implementing effective financial policies and controls; and financial reporting to relevant stakeholders; in addition to developing, implementing and managing an optimal capital structures that effectively meet short term liquidity needs and long term strategic objectives”. In 2015 Suha was appointed to the board of Alba (Aluminium Bahrain) as the representative for Mumtalakat, making her the first ever woman on Alba’s board.
“We are pleased to have Suha join Alba as the first woman within its board members and we look forward to the positive contribution that she will add to the company. We at Mumtalakat are committed towards gender parity and believe that women add a tremendous value in the workforce. Within Mumtalakat itself, women currently represent 40% of the total workforce and 25% of the management team;” Mahmood Hashim Al Kooheji, Mumtalakat CEO.
Suha was also one of the six Bahraini businesswomen on the 2016 Forbes list. She formerly held different managerial positions at KPMG International, working within the audit and advisory units in Bahrain, Qatar, and the United States. Suha is a certified public accountant and holds a BSc in accounting from the University of Bahrain.
Shaikha Hessa Al Khalifa – INJAZ Executive Director; Chairperson of Board, Salam Bank
“To allow for a higher degree of female presence in both decision-making and the labour force as a whole, we need to grow beyond conventional thinking; not only to reach high levels of influence, but also to benefit from the positive effect that comes with the increased presence and participation of women;” Shaikha Hessa.
In 2005 Sheikha Hessa established INJAZ Bahrain, (a subsidiary of Junior Achievement Worldwide) to give young people practical experience in the areas of business and entrepreneurship. She became INJAZ’s Executive Director, working with a Board of Directors which included CEOs from ten major corporations. INJAZ aspires to “inspire a generation of Bahraini youth to use their natural talents, inspirations, passions, and determinations to become the business leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”
INJAZ volunteers educate students in the areas of workforce readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. To date, INJAZ has supported 108,000 Bahraini students.
“We have an entrepreneurial society. We have Tamkeen, which is a part of the government that offers aid to startups. We have the Bahrain Development Bank, we have the Supreme Council for Women, and both have incubators to support entrepreneurs. But, to be honest, there has been no one targeting younger kids. And this is where INJAZ Bahrain comes in. We actually teach them [entrepreneurship] at university, high school, and intermediate levels, before they get in to the job market. So we teach them to think entrepreneurially, before they finish their education;” Sheikha Hessa.
Sheikha Hessa is also a member of Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Women, as well as the Chairperson of Al Salam Bank’s Board of Directors. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in management in 1998 and Master’s degree in social policy and planning from the London School of Economics. Shaikha Hessa is a graduate of the UK programme, Young Enterprise, Junior Achievement.
“I’m a Bahraini citizen, and I firmly believe in citizenship – what your country has given to you, you have to give back to your country;” Shaikha Hessa.
Muna Al Hashemi – Batelco Bahrain CEO
“It’s very challenging, and interesting at the same time, because in Bahrain the market is very dynamic,” Al Hashemi says in the midst of another busy Gitex event in Dubai’s World Trade Centre… For us, we love to work in such a competitive environment because you’re always pushing the limit;” Muna Al Hashemi.
Muna has overseen an innovative and challenging period for Batelco, Bahrain’s leading telecom company. She has facilitated the expansion of services provided by Batelco and an increasing focus on activities which benefit the local community, such as the unveiling of a “smart bus” which maximizes the security of its passengers. Muna said of the initiative: “It’s about how we can really help the community, especially when it comes to the kids at school, by providing them with complete digital bus whereby we are allowing their parents, the school and all the administration to be in contact with the people. The objective is to provide the utmost security and safety for our children.”
Muna Al Hashemi became Chief Executive for Batelco’s Bahrain operation in 2015. Prior to this, Muna had been heading Batelco’s Consumer Division since 2008. She gradually ascended to these senior positions after joining the Company in 1994. Muna began her career in the Engineering Department and progressed to Customer Services, Accounts, Product Marketing, Product Development and Customer Marketing. Working in these diverse sections gave her the necessary experience to progress to the role of General Manager of the Consumer Division, followed by seven months as Acting CEO. Muna is also a member of the Board of Directors of Umniah, Batelco’s sister company in Jordan. Muna has a Master’s degree in Telecommunications and a BSc in Electronic Engineering.
On her appointment as CEO, colleagues were quick to recognize Al Hashemi’s many attributes which qualified her for the role: “The Board’s decision is based on Muna’s excellent achievements since December 2014 as Acting CEO, and also on her long and successful career with Batelco since joining as a graduate in 1994.”
“There’s a clear roadmap from the government to really encourage and to turn Bahrain into an ICT hub;” Muna Al Hashemi.
Najla Al Shirawi – CEO, Securities & Investment Company (SICO)
“What makes me particularly fortunate is the backing of a very capable and highly experienced management team;” Najla Al Shirawi.
Najla was appointed as the Securities & Investment Company Deputy CEO in June 2013, before being given the top job nine months later. She previously held a range of roles in the Bank, including COO for seven years; as well as head of asset management and head of investments and finance.
Najla was also a lecturer in engineering at the University of Bahrain and she worked for a number of institutions owned by the Geneva-based Dar al-Mal al-Islami Trust, where she was responsible for establishing private banking operations in the GCC region.
She also chairs the boards of directors of two SICO subsidiaries: SICO Funds Services Company (SFS) and SICO UAE; an Independent Board Member of Eskan Bank, Bahrain. She is also a board member of the Deposit Protection Scheme, Bahrain; a member of the Board of Trustees of the Human Resources Development Fund, Bahrain; a board member of Bahrain Associations of Banks; and a member of the board of BIBF.
Najla holds an MBA in Civil Engineering, and attended the Management Acceleration Programme at INSEAD, France. She was ranked 19th regionally and third in Bahrain in the Forbes Middle East Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen list for 2015; and was honoured by HRH Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty the King and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Women for her contribution to the Kingdom’s financial sector in 2015.
“Bahrain has been increasingly focused on prudent fiscal management and sustainability by reducing current expenditure, diversifying the government’s capital expenditure and focusing on sectors with high growth potential;” Najla Al Shirawi.