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7 Successful Saudi Women that Beat the Stereotype

One of the most stereotyped nations internationally, Saudi Arabia is home to some of the most influential women in the world. With nothing but their talent, perseverance and will, these seven successful Saudi women are defying media constructions and writing a brand new chapter in Saudi Arabia’s history.

1) Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran

In 2013, Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran became the first female licensed lawyer in Saudi Arabia. A true pioneer listed as the 7th of the world’s 100 most powerful women by Arabian Business, she also founded the country’s first female law firm, focusing primarily on fighting for women’s rights and helping courts understand legal disputes from a female perspective.

2) Mona Al Munajjed

A published author, and a strong advocate of women’s rights, Dr. Mona Al Munajjed is Saudi Arabia’s most prominent sociologist. Listed as the 9th most influential Arab Women by Arabian Business magazine, Al Munajjed received the UN-21 Award for excellence in 2005 for her social development projects. The titles of her books Saudi Women Speak, 24 Remarkable Women Tell Their Success Stories, and Women in Saudi Arabia Today speak for themselves.

3) Haifa Al Mansour 

With an unbeatable talent to illuminate female characters pushing through social boundaries, Haifa Al Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female director. Listed by Forbes in the second place among the 100 most powerful Arab women, she was the first ever Saudi movie to enter the Oscars as Best Foreign Language Movie for her film Wadjda, which she had at times to direct through walkie-talkie from the inside of a van.

4) Hayat Sindi

The director of Diagnostics For All, a nonprofit fusing biotechnology and microfluidics to develop diagnostics for the developing world, Dr. Hayat Sind is a woman who definitely shakes the world”, as Newsweek described her. She was appointed a 2011 Emerging Explorer by National Geographic, and in 2012, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for science education. She has recently been invited to serve at the UN Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board. Among her innovations, Sindi has developed a diagnostic tool used for the early detection of breast cancer and the Magnetic Acoustic Resonance Sensor (MARS).

5) Thoraya Ahmed Obaid

Appointed as the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2001, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid was the first Saudi Arabian to head a United Nations agency. As a UNFPA executive director and an Under-Secretary General Of the United Nations, she has introduced a special focus on culture and religion in the fund’s development work. Obaid was also the first Saudi woman to be granted a scholarship by the government to study at an American university.

6) Khawla Al Khuraya

A leader in genomic cancer research, Khawla Al Khuraya is a distinguished physician, famous for identifying a gene that encourages the formation of cancer cells in the human body. The director of the Research Centre at King Fahad National Centre for Children’s Cancer, Al Khuraya is the first woman to receive the King Abdulaziz Award for Excellence for her work in the field of cancer research and aas also recently elected to the Shura Council.

7) Lubna Olayan

Nominated by Forbes as the 86th most powerful woman of the world in 2014, Lubna Olayan is one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent businesswomen. The CEO of Olayan Financing Company, she was the first woman to speak at a mixed conference in Saudi Arabia, the Jeddah Economic Forum, where she held a keynote speech in 2004. She is also a board member of the Arab Thought Foundation and Al Fanar, en entity which supports grassroots organisations in the Arab world.

Read the post that inspired this one on Scoop Empire. Do you know of any other Saudi women who have risen to power? Let us know in the comments below!

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Valentina Primo

Journalist, globetrotter, and determined idealist. Since Valentina left her home country of Argentina, she has searched for ways to build bridges between cultures and foster dialogue. Her previous work in international organizations in Italy and Germany fed her passion for the world of development, while her 8-year journalistic experience in Argentina and Egypt increased her curiosity for everything that challenges the stereotype. She holds a BA in Journalism and a Masters in Peace Studies with a specialization in Human Rights.

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