KUWAIT: Twelve Kuwaiti women ranked among the 100 most powerful Arab women according to Forbes magazine’s recent index. Well known Kuwaiti female leaders including ranked near the top, with NBK’s Shaikha Al Bahar leading the pack at number 5 and Maha Al Ghunaim at number 6. The list ranks mostly business women, bankers, engineers, entrepreneurs, real estate developers and others in industry across the Middle East.
The list, narrowed down from a group of 300 from Arab countries (Algeria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan and Yemen were not included), ranked the women according to the following metrics: size of company (2014 revenues, assets or employees, depending on the type of firm and whether financials were publicly available), position, and sphere of impact. Media presence (Arabic Google entries) and social media were not major factors, except in a few cases.
Shaikha Al Bahar (Number 5). Leading the charge at one of Kuwait’s largest financial institution, Shaikha Al-Bahar was promoted to Deputy Group CEO of National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) in 2014, after four years as CEO. With assets of more than $74 billion, NBK has consistently received high credit ratings, and was named Best Bank in Kuwait for five consecutive years by the international financial publication Global Finance. She has more than 30 years of banking experience and currently serves as a board member at Turkish Bank, Zain mobile telecommunications company and Kuwait University-College of Business Administration.
Maha Al Ghunaim (Number 6). A woman pioneer in Arab finance, Maha Al-Ghunaim co-founded Global Investment House (GIH) in 1998; an investment company that went on to become the first Kuwaiti firm to list on the London Stock Exchange. After the financial crisis of 2008, GIH posted heavy debts and was forced to delist. In 2014, she briefly resigned from her post citing unspecified issues with the board, only to withdraw her resignation subsequently. Al-Ghunaim and her team re-engineered the firm, and GIH is back to being profitable, and has $3 billion in assets under management. Al Ghunaim holds a BS in Mathematics from San Francisco State University.
Henadi Anwar Al-Saleh (Number 8). A Tufts University graduate in economics, Henadi Anwar Al-Saleh became chair of the board of directors at logistics giant Agility last year, when the company split the role of chair and CEO to comply with new governance rules in Kuwait. The company generated $4.8 billion in revenues last year providing global distribution, warehousing and freight for the pharmaceutical, retail, oil and gas sectors. Al-Saleh joined Agility in 2007 as head of investor relations. She was previously head of debt and equity capital markets at NBK Capital.
Rasha Alroumi (Number 17). As Chairperson of Kuwait’s national carrier, Rasha Alroumi focused on modernizing Kuwait Airways’ fleet. A fleet development program was launched in December 2014 as part of an agreement with Airbus to upgrade Kuwait Airways fleet by leasing five aircrafts. This August, they received the Airbus A330; the third of five aircrafts. The carrier’s fleet is currently 17 aircrafts strong: three A320-200s, three A310-300s, five A300-605Rs, four A340-300s and two Boeing B777s. Kuwait Airways has collaborated with Kuwait Red Crescent to launch a humanitarian project called Balsam that provides aid to the underprivileged.
Hetaf Khajah (Number 25). She joined NIG in 2003 as an international investment manager before becoming chief investment officer in 2015. Originally a building materials company, NGI invests in regional and international industries such as oil, gas and petrochemicals. It recorded revenues of $451 million in 2014 with total assets of $4.5 billion. She did her Master’s in Management Information Systems and BSc in Computer Engineering from George Washington University.
Sara Akbar (Number 31). An industry veteran at Kuwait Oil Company and Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC), Sara Akbar co-founded Kuwait Energy in 2005. Kuwait Energy is an independent oil and gas company actively engaged in the exploration, appraisal, development and production of hydrocarbons. Akbar was the only female firefighter to participate in her country’s Wild Well Killers team, which was formed on September 9, 1991 to fight the oil-well fires of Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Kuwait University.
Ghosson Al Khaled (Number 69). Al Khaled joined the family business in 2002 and during her tenure has restructured the Kuwait operation and increased the company’s assets to $1 billion with a turnover of $200 million. Kuwait-based ACICO Industries started out as a concrete supply company, which later diversified into the construction, real estate, industrial and hospitality sectors. It is the largest manufacturer of Autoclaved Aerated Concrete in the Middle East. She has an Executive MBA from Thunder Bird University, Arizona, and a Master’s of Building Science from University of Southern California, USA.
Hosnia Hashem (Number 73). She has been VP of Operations at KUFPEC since June 2013. KUFPEC is an international oil and natural gas exploration and development firm that generated $1.4 billion in revenues last year. In her role, she oversees the international operations of Kuwait’s oil sector spread over 15 countries. She was previously Deputy Managing Director of North Kuwait asset of Kuwait Oil Company (KOC). Currently, she sits on the board of the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KPC), the state-run oil refining firm of which KUFPEC is a subsidiary, in addition to chairing the Middle East Board of Directors of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. She is also a board member of the Hope foundation, a Kuwait-based humanitarian non-profit. Hashem holds a BS from Kuwait University in chemical engineering.
Fadwa Al-Homaizi (Number 80). She oversees the operations of the Al-Homaizi Group, a Kuwait-based business conglomerate focused on the F&B industry as well as retail and furniture industries. She also cofounded Kout Good Group in 1982, a franchise of restaurants that operates brands like Burger King and Pizza Hut with assets worth $209.8 million. Al-Homaizi is on the Board of Directors of LoYAC, a Kuwaiti non-profit for youth development.
Eaman Al Roudhan (Number 85). She joined the Zain Group, a publicly-traded mobile telecommunications provider in the Middle East and North Africa, which recorded revenues of $46.769 million in this year’s first quarter. She joined Zain Kuwait in 1998 and together with a team launched the first mobile prepaid service in Kuwait. In November last year, she became Chief Regulatory Officer in 2014, overseeing Zain’s operations in their exacting dealings with regulators across the region. She holds a BSc in Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering from Kuwait University and has attended programs at Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT) and executive programs at Harvard Business School.
May Al Mudhaf (Number 86). Last year, May Al Mudhaf became CEO of National Bank of Abu Dhabi’s Kuwait office. She has over 20 years of banking experience and was previously General Manager, Treasurer at Commercial Bank of Kuwait, and Burgan Bank, where she was Acting CEO. She has a BA in Economics from the American University of Beirut.
Sheikha Hissah Al-Sabah (Number 91). Daughter of the late 14th Emir of Kuwait, Sheikha Hissah Al-Sabah was recently elected Chairperson of Al-Asas Holding Company, a single family office that offers its services to a single high net worth family; financial and personal. She is also Chairperson of the Council of Arab Businesswomen, and the Narcotics Control Committee, among other institutions. She has a BA in Public administration and Political Science from the American University of Beirut.
By Sara Ahmed