Distinguished Saudi Women Shine at Business Forum

Published: December 26, 2011

Editor’s Note:

The 2nd US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum in Atlanta earlier this month was a very successful meeting of over 1200 business people and government officials from the United States and Saudi Arabia that aimed to explore trade and investment openings in the Kingdom and make connections.  The men and women who made up the delegation of several hundred Saudi Arabians represented a cross section of government agencies, professions and interests.  Today we are pleased to share for your consideration an article by one of those delegation members, Ms. Samar Fatany, who noted the exceptional contribution the Saudi women made to the Forum and to advancements in the Kingdom.


Saudi women make best use of Atlanta Forum
Samar Fatany

The 2nd US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum, Atlanta, Dec 5-7, 2011

The participation by highly competent and professional Saudi women certainly contributed to the success of the US Saudi Business Opportunities Forum held in Atlanta from Dec. 5 to 7, 2011. The forum was organized by the Saudi Committee for International Trade (CIT), US-Saudi Arabian Business Council and Saudi-US Trade Group in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Industry and US Commercial Service.

Not many people outside our borders are aware of the existence of exceptional women in Saudi Arabia so the presence of such qualified women was a great surprise to a lot of attendees at the forum.

The keynote speech was delivered by Lubna Al-Olayan with great eloquence. In her opening remarks, she brilliantly summarized the geopolitical challenges that the US and Saudi Arabia face today and gave an optimistic view of the future cooperation between the two countries. Lubna Olayan is a highly experienced financial leader and globally known. She is the CEO of Olayan Company, a private multinational enterprise. She was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and sits on many boards and councils because of her extensive experience and expertise in corporate finance, international banking, distribution and manufacturing.

Her sister Hutham Olayan moderated the session on opportunities for finance and investment with equal professionalism. Hutham leads the Olayan Group’s activities in the Americas and has been elected to the board of directors of Morgan Stanley. She leads an organization that manages a diversified portfolio of US public and private equities and real estate based in New York. She is a founding member of the Arab Bankers Association of North America, a trustee of the conference board and a board member of the Institute for International Economics.

Dr. Hanan Balkhy, executive director for infection control at the National Guard Hospital moderated the panel of health and medical services. She represented the Saudi doctors well known in the field of medical research and health care.

Dr. Salwa Alhazaa, professor of ophthalmology at Alfaisal University, and head and consultant of ophthalmology, senior clinical scientist and consultant in genetics at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, gave an informative presentation in the panel discussing,” building the health care sector through innovation and technology.” Her logic and research findings impressed the audience.

Dr. Alhazaa also participated in the outreach program to foster better relations with the American women in business. The participants included outstanding Saudi women in the field of architecture, finance and accounting, information and technology, and entrepreneurship. Samra Alkuwaiz, a financial expert and lecturer at King Saud University is a board member and partner of Osool Capital in Riyadh. She has often been named among the most influential women in the region’s financial industry. Alkuwaiz has encouraged many Saudi women to participate in finance, play the stock market and build portfolios.

Nadya Bakhurji founded her own architectural consultancy company, Riwaq. This was the first company to be owned by a woman. It is registered under the Saudi Council of Engineers. She is also the first Saudi woman to become a board member of the Saudi Council of Engineers and has campaigned for the recognition of Saudi female architects and engineers in Saudi Arabia.

Nouf Alrakan is CEO of Alimtiaz Alamthal trading company specializing in IT solutions, clothing and food products. She has also established a new company representing the oil and gas industry in the Kingdom and embarked on setting up a manufacturing facility. Khadija Koshak leads a successful business in fashion design. She joined the program with her aspiring daughter currently studying communication in the US. Together they presented a bright picture of two generations of educated and well-accomplished Saudi women.

The outreach initiative was one of the highlights of the Atlanta Forum where some of the most dynamic American female executives and entrepreneurs met with the delegation of professional Saudi women in a round table discussion aimed at promoting women in global business. In an open and frank dialogue, the Saudi women discussed issues concerning their negative image in the international community and projected an accurate picture of Saudi women. Saudi women, they said, have their own hopes and aspire to contribute to the progress and development of their society.

The forum concluded with a commitment to recognize the great potential of Saudi career women and to explore new business opportunities between the two countries.

At the end of the session, the hosts offered the Saudi delegation membership in the International Women’s Forum, (IWF), a global organization where leading women of the world are united in a network to promote better world leadership with new ideas and perspectives to make our world a better place. With great enthusiasm the Saudi women welcomed the opportunity to gain experience from the IWF to better serve their governments, corporations and academic institutions.

The Saudi women felt it is time they came out of their isolation and became global partners contributing to intercultural understanding, peace and global prosperity. It is hoped that this dialogue would be the beginning of a long-term relationship between the American and Saudi women business community.

The CIT should be commended for their brave initiative to include a delegation of accomplished Saudi women in the US- Saudi Business Opportunities Forum. No doubt, the presence of highly qualified women had a strong impact and contributed to the success of the forum.

We too should sponsor more of these events to erase the Western misconceptions of Saudi women and encourage our capable women to excel and participate in global events to showcase their capabilities and willingness to contribute and develop the planet around them.

— Samar Fatany is a Saudi radio journalist. She can be reached at: samarfatany@hotmail.com.

Source: Arab News


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