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Women and Investing in the Middle East: A Rising Force for Change

The Middle East is a region that has often been stereotyped as a place where women have

middle east women and money

little or no power, rights, or opportunities. However, this image is far from the reality of many women who are making waves in various fields, especially in business and finance. In this article, we will highlight some of the achievements and challenges of women and investing in the Middle East, and how they are transforming the economic and social landscape of the region.

Women and Power in the Middle East

One of the factors that has enabled women to gain more influence and visibility in the Middle East is their involvement in political and social movements that have shaped the history of the region. As Chatham House notes, women’s rights have often been interlaced with nationalist movements that swept across the Middle East at the beginning of the 20th century, as well as with anti-colonial struggles and revolutions that followed. Women have also played a key role in the recent uprisings and transitions that have occurred in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Iran.

However, women’s participation in these movements has not always translated into equal representation or recognition in the post-revolutionary or post-conflict contexts. Women have faced various forms of discrimination, marginalization, and backlash from conservative or patriarchal forces that seek to limit their role and rights in the public sphere. Women have also had to contend with legal and institutional barriers that hinder their access to education, employment, health care, justice, and political participation.

Despite these obstacles, women have continued to fight for their rights and freedoms, using various strategies and platforms to voice their demands and aspirations. Women have also leveraged their education and skills to enter different sectors and professions, including those that have traditionally been dominated by men, such as banking and finance.

Women and Banking in the Middle East

The banking and financial services sector is one of the areas where women have made significant strides in the Middle East. According to Forbes Middle East, there are 21 women from this sector on its list of 100 Power Businesswomen in the Middle East 2020, including four from stock exchanges and financial regulators. These women have risen to leadership positions in some of the region’s largest and most influential banks and financial institutions, such as Samba Financial Group, Tadawul, Saudi British Bank, National Bank of Kuwait, Dubai Islamic Bank, Central Bank of Bahrain, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, and Dubai Financial Services Authority.

These women have not only proven their competence and expertise in managing complex and dynamic financial operations, but they have also contributed to the development and innovation of the sector. For example, Sarah Al Suhaimi, the chairperson of Tadawul, Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, has overseen the inclusion of Saudi Arabia in major global indices such as MSCI and FTSE Russell, as well as the listing of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest IPO. Lubna Olayan, the chairperson of Saudi British Bank, has led the merger of her bank with Alawwal Bank, creating Saudi Arabia’s third-largest lender by assets. Rania Nashar, the CEO of Samba Financial Group, has launched several initiatives to support female entrepreneurs and empower women in finance.

These women have also served as role models and mentors for other women who aspire to pursue careers in banking and finance. They have advocated for more diversity and inclusion in the sector, as well as for more policies and programs that facilitate women’s access to financial services and products. They have also participated in various forums and networks that aim to promote women’s leadership and empowerment in finance, such as Women Corporate Directors Foundation (WCD), Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA), Arab Women Banking Association (AWBA), Women in Finance Middle East (WIFME), among others.

Women and Investing in the Middle East

Another aspect of women’s involvement in finance is their role as investors. Women in the Middle East have been increasingly active in investing their wealth in various asset classes and markets, both locally and internationally. According to a report by Wealth-X, women account for 14% of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) in the Middle East (those with a net worth of $30 million or more), which is higher than the global average of 11%. Moreover, women UHNWIs in the Middle East have an average net worth of $242 million, which is higher than their male counterparts ($210 million) and higher than the global average for women UHNWIs ($184 million) .

Women investors in the Middle East have diverse backgrounds and profiles. Some are self-made entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses in various sectors such as retail, fashion, media, education, health care, and technology. Some are inheritors of family fortunes who have taken over the management or ownership of their family businesses or have started their own ventures. Some are philanthropists who have established foundations or initiatives that support various causes such as education, health, women’s empowerment, and social development.

Women investors in the Middle East have also shown a keen interest in impact investing, which is the practice of investing with the intention of generating positive social or environmental outcomes, in addition to financial returns. According to a survey by Standard Chartered Private Bank, 45% of women investors in the Middle East are interested in impact investing, compared to 38% of men. Moreover, 64% of women investors in the Middle East believe that impact investing will become more important in the next three years, compared to 52% of men.

Some of the examples of women investors who are making an impact in the Middle East and beyond are:

  • Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, the founder and CEO of Alliances for Global Sustainability, a platform that connects stakeholders and fosters partnerships to address global sustainability challenges. She is also an angel investor who supports startups that have a positive social or environmental impact, such as Bee’ah, a waste management company, and The Luxury Closet, an online platform for buying and selling pre-owned luxury goods.

  • Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the United States and the founder of Alf Khair, a social enterprise that aims to elevate the professional capital of Saudi women and youth. She is also an investor in various companies that empower women and promote social change, such as Glowork, a recruitment platform for women, and The Modist, an online platform for modest fashion.

  • Mona Almoayyed, the managing director of Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons, a diversified conglomerate based in Bahrain. She is also the chairperson of Ebdaa Bank, a microfinance institution that provides loans and training to low-income entrepreneurs, especially women. She is also a board member of INJAZ Bahrain, a non-profit organization that promotes entrepreneurship education among youth.

  • Raja Easa Al Gurg, the managing director of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, a family-owned business group with interests in various sectors such as retail, construction, real estate, and manufacturing. She is also the president of Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC), a network that supports and empowers women entrepreneurs and professionals in Dubai. She is also a board member of Nabadat Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free cardiac surgery to children in need.


Women and investing in the Middle East is a topic that deserves more attention and recognition, as it reflects the achievements and aspirations of many women who are making a difference in their communities and societies. Women in the Middle East have shown that they are not only capable of managing their wealth and making sound financial decisions, but they are also willing to use their resources and influence to create positive change and impact. Women investors in the Middle East are not only a rising force for economic growth and development, but also for social progress and transformation.

I hope you liked my article. Please let me know if you have any feedback or questions. 😊

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