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Saudi women achievers denied the limelight

Blip on Forbes list of business leaders attributed to media apathy

  • Maha AkeelImage Credit:
  • Nahed TaherImage Credit:
Gulf News

Manama: They are remarkably smart and confident individuals. They are exceptional in terms of their positive attitudes and organisational aptitudes. Their financial portfolios are impressive and their words and deeds assume impressive business and social significance. All of them are outstanding achievers and great networkers. Yet, none of these Saudi women whose achievements are no doubt special were selected for the 2012 Forbes list of the 100 most powerful women in the world.

“There are so many transactions and achievements accomplished by Saudi women this year, but they were clearly under-reported. They have never made it to the international community because our media did not highlight them,” said Nahed Taher, the executive director and co-founder of Gulf One Investment Bank.

“Maybe there were no outstanding achievements that would have qualified Saudi women to the Forbes list. However, even if there were, the Saudi media did not cover or highlight them in the appropriate way that would have made the international community aware of them,” she said, quoted by local Arabic daily Al Sharq.

The media should be genuinely keen on communicating with Saudi businesswomen and report on their activities and their investments.

“The Saudi women remain highly recognised for their robust endeavours and diverse activities at the local, regional and international levels, even though there is not enough support from the local media,” she said.

Nahed was in January selected among the 50 top-ranking prominent businesswomen around the world in a list compiled by the Financial Times through a jury of seven members who ranked executives managing a group’s controlling company.

Nahed came 23rd and she was the only Arab woman to receive the recognition for the third consecutive year.

Only three Arab women figured on the 2012 Forbes list of the most powerful women in the world.

Shaikha Al Bahar, the chief executive officer of the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK), was ranked 85, Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the UAE Minister of Foreign Trade was 92nd and Shaikha Mayassa Al Thani, the chair of Qatar Museums Authority, was 100th.

According to Forbes, the 100 women “adhere to the traditional classifications of power [political and economic might] and those who have risen to the top of the social and cultural landscape”.

For Haya Al Sunaidi, a businesswoman and head of an international event management company, Saudi women have repeatedly shown how competent they are. “We have big names that have been recognised by international magazines, but we must not always believe that the recognition by a publication is the yardstick to measure influence,” she said.

However, Haya insisted that the fact that Saudi women had failed to find a mention in the Forbes list was unusual.

“Saudi women have had a sound international reputation for years. I am confident that we will have Saudi names next year,” she said.

Haya ruled out any deliberate attempt to scrap the names of Saudi women from the list.

Business consultant Ruqa Esmail Sajini said Saudi women have not been treated fairly locally, missing out on crucial recognition and vital support. “There are many women with high creativity skills whose dreams were shattered because of the stifling bureaucracy and stalling government measures,” Ruqa told the daily.

“Many of them ended up leaving the country and won recognition abroad. That is really frustrating and I accuse the media of not focusing on the issues that Saudi women face and the difficulties they have to confront. Most of the magazines unfortunately look for lucrative advertisement contracts at the expense of highlighting the business achievements of creative Saudi men and women,” she said.

Maha Akeel, a writer and editor who introduces herself as a believer in human rights and human dignity, said she expected Saudi women to feature again on the list next year. “There are many Saudi women who have an international economic and political influence. Being on the list should however be seen only within the confines of moral appreciation by the international community and a recognition of their role,” she said.

Maha has written a book on women in the Saudi media.