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Dubai: Dubai based Emirati Raja Easa Al Gurg and Indian Renuka Jagtiani ranked first and second respectively amonsgst the most powerful businesswomen in the Middle East. Dr Aish Bin Bishr, Directror General of Smart Dubai is also included in the list of top 10 businesswomen.

On the cusp of International Women’s Day next month, Forbes Middle East has unveiled its annual Power Businesswomen in the Middle East list, packed with 100 exceptional businesswomen at the head of many of the most influential and transformational companies in the region.

Raja Easa Al Gurg

Raja Easa Al Gurg who was ranked number 1 among the top 10 most powerful businesswomen in the Middle East, is the managing director and vice chairperson of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, which is one of the biggest conglomerates in the Middle East. Al Gurg is also president of the Dubai Business Women Council and works to improve female entrepreneurship in the UAE. She also serves as a board member at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Women’s Association and HSBC Middle East. She was the first Emirati woman to be appointed to the board of HSBC Bank Middle East Limited.

Ranuka Jagtiani

Dubai based Renuka Jagtiani who ranked at number 2 on the list, is the chairwoman and CEO of the Landmark Group, a multinational retail and consumer conglomerate based in Dubai and founded by her husband, billionaire Micky Jagtiani. For more than 20 years, she has led the company’s corporate strategy and expansion into new markets. As head of the company, Jagtiani oversees more than 50,000 employees. Currently, the group operates over 2,300 outlets, encompassing over 30 million square feet across 22 countries. Jagtiani has initiated the e-commerce platform and driven the group’s CSR initiatives.

Dr Aisha Bin Bishr

Dubai based Dr Aisha Bin Bishr, who is at number 10 in the top 10 Middle East, is the Director General of the Smart Dubai Office — the government entity entrusted with Dubai’s citywide smart transformation. Bin Bishr is also the chairperson of the Sustainable Development Goals 11 Global Council, and serves as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Councils, and The Fourth Industrial Revolution’s Smart Cities Readiness Index Team. Before taking up her current role.

Steep career ladder

According to the report issued on Tuesday, most of the people on this list have been working their way up a steep career ladder for decades to reach the top of their professions. And let’s not forget how much the world has moved on in those decades. If there were glass ceilings to be smashed, these are the titans that first smashed them.

Most entries by Emiratis

In the 2020 list, there are 22 new entries and 23 nationalities represented across 28 sectors. Emiratis are the most prevalent nationality with 23 entries. There are also nine Egyptians, eight Lebanese and eight Omani women. British women have the highest representation among non-Arabs, with seven entries. The top 10 is dominated by Saudis, with three of the country’s biggest names in the top five: Samba Financial Group’s Rania Nashar, Tadawul’s Sarah Al Suhaimi and Saudi British Bank’s Lubna Olayan.

The list was constructed via nominations and through in-depth research based on criteria including the size of the businesses that these women head, their accomplishments over the last year, the initiatives they champion, and their overall work experience.

Self-made women

The majority (79) of the 100 women are self-made, 16 of whom have started their own businesses. And 21 women work in their family businesses, with many of them starting out when it was rare to find women in the workplace. There are 21 women from the banking and financial services sector, including four from stock exchanges and financial regulators.

Women from government organisations

The public sector is also well represented, with 13 women on our list heading government organisations, including Director General of Smart Dubai, Aisha Bin Bishr, who is overseeing Dubai’s digital transformation. Or Sarah Al Suhaimi who chairs Tadawul, the region’s biggest stock exchange, which recently handled the IPO of the world’s most valuable company, Aramco.

Large corporates

Half of the list head large corporations, including Nadia Al Saeed, who runs Jordan’s fourth biggest lender, Bank al Etihad, and Pakinam Kafafi, CEO of Egyptian energy company, Taqa Arabia, who is the only female leader in the oil and gas sector on our list.

The Middle East’s outstanding female leadership was reflected internationally in 2019 when Forbes’ list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women featured three women from this region — who now make up our top three. Raja Al Gurg (#84 on the Forbes list) manages her family’s business, which was first founded by her father. Indian national Renuka Jagtiani (#96 on the Forbes list) has built a retail empire in the UAE. And Rania Nashar (#97 on the Forbes list) became the first female CEO of Samba Financial Group in 2017, Saudi Arabia’s fourth-biggest bank by assets.

“These Arab women are not only driving economic growth in the region, but they are also representative of the Middle East’s strong female leadership and influence across all areas of life from e-commerce to financial services,” says Khuloud Al Omian, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Middle East.