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Top 10 World's Most Powerful Arab Women

We've distilled the industry's leading women from CEO Middle East's annual power list

HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi
HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi

Construction Week's sister publication CEO Middle East has published its annual power list of the The 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015.

We've rendered that list down to the ten most influential women in the construction sector, and the sectors that most influence our industry.

You can view the full CEO Middle East power list here

The list was topped by HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi has topped the CEO Middle East list of the Arab world’s most powerful women for the fifth year in a row.

Having served for more than 10 years in the UAE Federal Government, Sheikha Lubna (pictured below) has not only been an icon for women in the region, and a trailblazer for women’s rights, but also a vital part of the UAE’s evolution and growth in global prominence.

As Minister of International Cooperation and Development – a role she took up in 2013 following five years as Minister of Foreign Trade – Sheikha Lubna is now a familiar face and formidable player in world politics, and a worthy retainer of the number one spot in the list.

Click here to explore the list


1. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi
Industry: Government
Country: UAE

There won’t be many people who are surprised to see Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi retain top spot in this power list, such is her influence not only throughout the region, but across the world.
Number one for the fifth year in a row, Sheikha Lubna has continued to boost the UAE’s role as a major donor and key player in global human development through her role as the Federal Government’s Minister of International Cooperation and Development.

Carrying out her responsibilities with her trademark energy and enthusiasm, Sheikha Lubna has ensured the UAE’s overseas aid donations have continued to increase. A recent report shows that aid of this type more than tripled to nearly $6 billion in 2013 - the year she took up her role, after a lengthy spell as Minister of Foreign Trade.

During her time as Minister of Foreign Trade, and before that as Minister of Economy, from 2004-2008, the UAE enjoyed its most prosperous period and highest volumes of foreign trade.

As well as her numerous ministerial responsibilities, Sheikha Lubna is also a board director at the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, a member of the governing board of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy - National University of Singapore, a board director at the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, a member of the board of trustees of the Dubai School of Government, and co-founder and board member of the Friends of Cancer Patients.

Also a great champion for women in business, Sheikha Lubna is a regular advocate for womens rights, education, and empowerment.

Earlier this year, in her role as president of Zayed University, she helped forge ties between the university and Dubai Women Establishment, in a bid to unite their efforts in boost the participation of UAE women, and to help them reach their personal and professional goals.

Last month, she also spoke at the Government Summit, calling for improvements for women, and highlighting UAE grants to educate girls in other countries such as Pakistan and Yemen.
She said: “When a society doesn’t focus on female education, you see after a while that it does not provide women with enough opportunities. In the UAE today, we’ve seen that education for women has been a priority since the inception of the state and women were able to access many sectors because of education.”

See the full Power List here

2. Reem Al Hashimy
Industry: Government
Country: UAE

After having played an instrumental role in UAE’s successful Expo 2020 bid last year, Reem Al Hashimy’s workload has increased exponentially as she works towards the global event which will arrive in five years.

Expo 2020 is expected to provide 277,000 new job opportunities, and bring in almost $25 billion in added economic activities, and Al Hashimy is at the forefront of making that possibility a reality.

Not only is she responsible for laying the groundwork necessary to host 25 million visitors, but she is also an integral part of the team looking beyond 2020, ensuing Dubai makes the most of the event in subsequent years.

And that’s just one part of her responsibilities. As Minister of State for the UAE, Al Hashimy is a vital part of the federal government, as well as managing the International Affairs Unit of the ExecutiveOffice of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, and ruler of Dubai.

In addition she chairs Dubai Cares, a charity aimed at improving children’s access to primary education in poorer parts of the world, as well as the Emirates Competitiveness Council, which works with public and private entities to endorse polices and undertake actions which will drive the UAE’s competitiveness agenda.

And it doesn’t stop there. Al Hashimy is also the chair of the National Bureau of Statistics, and has travelled the world to improve relationships between the UAE and other countries.

See the full Power List here

3. Zainab Mohammed
Industry: Real estate
Country: UAE


As CEO of property management, market and communication at property developer wasl, Mohammed has built a reputation as a driving force behind Dubai’s real estate sector.

Mohammed plays a critical part in running the company that looks after the property portfolio owned by the government’s Dubai Real Estate Corporation (effectively the emirate’s biggest landlord). She and her team oversee several of wasl’s most important divisions.

She also overlooks the wasl call centre, and wasl owners’ association management, and if that isn’t enough for one person, Mohammed also sits on the board of Dubai blue-chip developer Emaar.

Her position at wasl is a rarity for women in the region’s real estate industry - an industry which remains male-dominated, but is changing thanks to the likes of Mohammed.

She said in recent interview: “This scenario represents a challenge for female professionals working within it. However, women have proven that they have what it takes to be leaders in all sectors… I believe that if a woman works hard and utilised every opportunity, she will get where she wants to be.”

See the full Power List here

4. Huda Al Ghoson
Industry: Energy
Country: KSA

Any HR role at Saudi Aramco is surely a challenge, given the enormous number of employees at the oil and gas firm, making Huda Al Ghoson’s position as executive director all the more impressive.
Instrumental in attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry, she is an important part of a company with more than 57,000 employees, according to 2013 figures.

With revenue of $378 billion, and total assets of $36 trillion, Saudi Aramco’s success relies on high quality teams, and relies on its executives to know the business inside out. During her 34 years of experience with the company, Al Ghoson has gained hands-on experience in almost every part of it, making her the ideal person to oversee this critical division.

See the full Power List here

5. Zaha Hadid
Industry: Architect
Country: Iraq


The mega projects keep on coming for Zaha Hadid – playfully nicknamed both the Starchitect, and the Lady Gaga of architecture.

The British Iraqi followed up 2014’s unveiling of Qatar’s first World Cup stadium with incredible designs for Beijing’s new airport terminal, scheduled to open in 2018, and the Bee’ah Headquarters in Sharjah, to name but two.

The architect is enjoying a stellar period, with Zaha Hadid Holdings enjoying a $16 million hike in turnover from $56.8 million to almost $74 million for the year up to 30 April 2014.

New revenue streams such as Central America have helped Hadid cement her position as one of the world’s leading architects. The Middle East is one of her most profitable regions, with work including the Riyadh Metro in Saudi Arabia, and the new Central Bank of Iraq, but as yet there are no plans to open a satellite office in the region.

See the full Power List here

6. Fatima Al Jaber
Indsutry: Construction
Country: UAE

In her role as chief operating officer, Fatima Al Jaber oversees more than 60,000 members of staff at the Al Jaber Group, as well as managing around $5 billion in assets.

Since taking the position in 2007, Al Jaber has taken charge of some of the UAE’s most iconic construction projects. The company was founded by her father more than 40 years ago, and Al Jaber herself has become one of the region’s most high-profile and respected businesswomen, as well as an advocate for women’s and young people’s rights.

She holds the distinction of becoming the first Emirati woman to be elected to the board of directors at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce in 2009, and help numerous positions in the Abu Dhabi municipal government.

See the full Power List here

7. Majida Ali Rashid
Industry: real estate
Country: UAE

The importance and quality of Majida Ali Rashid’s work was recognised last year when she was presented with the prestigious Female CEO of the Year award at the CEO Middle East Awards.

As assistant director general of Dubai Land Department, and head of the Investment Management and Promotion Centre – the department’s investment arm – Rashid has played an important role in developing Dubai’s real estate sector and standing as an investment destination.

During her tenure she has explored numerous opportunities for the promotion of Dubai, launching various schemes that have contributed to attracting global investment to Dubai’s real estate sector, while ensuring transparency in the market through a constant process of monitoring and policy.

See the full Power List here

8. Raja Al Gurg
Industry: Construction
Country: UAE


There is no escaping Raja Al Gurg’s high standing within the region’s business landscape.

Not only does she excel as managing director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, but the high-profile business woman sits as a board member of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and INdustry, president of the Dubai Business Women’s Council, and board member of the Dubai Women Association.

And it doesn’t stop there. Her other positions include member of the Dubai Government’s Economic Council, Federation of the UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry Business Women’s Committee, Arab International Women’s Forum, and the National Advisory Council for Zayed University’s College of Business Sciences.

She is also deputy chairperson of the Dubai Medical Authoriy and chairperson of the Board of Directors of Al Jalila Foundation.

See the full Power List here

9. Sara Akbar
Industry: Energy
Country: Kuwait.

Some call her The Firefighting Lady, others The Iron Lady of the Middle East. Either way, Sara Akbar’s three decades in the oil and gas industry have brought her huge respect.

The CEO and co-founder of Kuwait Energy has long been hailed as one of the most highly regarded spokespeople in the industry, having started her career with the Kuwait Oil Company from 1981 to 1999, and KUFPEC from 1999 to 2005, before launching Kuwait Energy. The moniker ‘firefighter’ stems from the important role she played in Kuwait’s oil production recovery efforts following the 1990 Iraq invasion. As a result of her work she was given the Global 500 Award from the UN Environmental Programme.

See the full Power List here

10. Mishaal Ashemimry
Country: KSA (USA)
Having developed a fascination with the stars aged just six years old, it should come as no surprise that Mishaal Ashemimry now builds rockets for a living.


The US-based aerospace engineer, whose masters degree research was funded by NASA, has held true to her young passion for space, founding MISHAAL Aerospace in 2010 and specialising in launch vehicle development to send small satellites to Low Earth Orbit. Clients to date have included governments, research companies, commercial companies, and telecommunication players. Based in Miami, Ashemimry holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Aerospace Engineering, and in Applied Mathematics, as well as a Masters of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering, with academic focus on experimental and analytical aerodynamics, rocket design, and nuclear thermal propulsion.

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