Who runs the world? Girls: UAE’s most influential women - MENA startups, innovation, and tech news


Who runs the world? Girls: UAE’s most influential women

Who runs the world? Girls: UAE’s most influential women

UAE’s women have been breaking the stereotypes lately. A woman handling her daily chores and a business leaves everyone star-struck. But women have been multi-tasking since forever with no given credit. It’s high time that we appreciate the little and big things that they do for us, the society, their efforts, and their work. Here’s a list of influential women who have been in the business from the UAE region.

  1. Ola Doudin, Founder, BitOasis

Ola Doudin has graduated with BEng in Electronic Engineering from the University of Birmingham. Before establishing the company she was working as an IT Advisory for financial institutions at Ernst & Young London. Ola is cofounder of BitOasis which is a bitcoin consumer wallet and quick exchange focused on cash-based markets. “BitOasis aims to change the way people transact and send money by making it easy and secure to use bitcoin. Ola is also co-founder of Yellow, a bitcoin payment processor, and currently serves as an advisor.” according to crunchbase.com.

“My Indian grandmother was the first woman and first Muslim to head the student union at her university in Lucknow, India. She spent her life fighting for women’s rights, which transpired down the generations. My French grandmother was involved in the Resistance and ended up at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. She is an extremely strong woman. However, when I look at my mum’s generation, the idea of entrepreneurship was not the first thing to come to mind. Yet, it has nothing to do with gender, but the mentality. The Indian side of my family, who are closer to the Arab culture, thought I was crazy for wanting to leave my corporate job to do my own thing. So, I think it is more of a generational gap than a gender issue.” Ola Doudinquoted during her interview.

  1. Sonia Weymuller, Founding Partner, VentureSouq

Sonia Weymuller is from Yale University and a MSc from The London School of Economics. She is a Charter Member & Board Director for TiE’s Dubai chapter, serves as the UAE Director for the Yale Alumni Schools Committee and is a Board Member and Mentor for e7 Daughters of the Emirates.

“Now, there has been an explosion of creativity and they can showcase it to the world much more easily. My mother’s world was smaller, unplugged, and the women of her era felt a greater pressure to assume more traditional roles, especially in a collectivist culture like ours. Their choice of lifestyle was limited and their lives were framed by stricter societal rules, values and morals. A greater proportion of women from my generation are university educated. We have the opportunity to study in the GCC or abroad. For many, living abroad, in a different culture, has broadened our perspectives, and it has opened our minds to exploring the many career, business, and life choices that are available to us. We are risk-takers. While having greater freedom is beneficial it is also confusing at times as it challenges our beliefs. However, the upside of this is that it makes us stronger in our faith and values.” she quoted during an interview.

  1. Carla Koffel, Executive Director, The Pearl Initiative

Carla Koffel did her advanced management program from Columbia university. Then, she went forward and did the oxford finance program from Oxford University. She’s the executive director of The Pearl Initiative now. The Pearl Initiative is a business-led network of international and regional leaders in the Gulf Region established to improve the economic, environmental and social impact of business and philanthropy by promoting better corporate governance and accountability.

“The price of success when I was working in the public sector was family. Though I worked for incredible entities that granted me flexible time, I was still very much away from my family and suffered greatly from guilt when I became a mother. Now, as an entrepreneur, I have more ownership over my schedule. However, I feel that as an entrepreneur I have neglected myself greatly. Entrepreneurship can be an incredibly lonely journey, and without the right support from family and friends, one can end up losing themselves in the process. I have to continuously remind myself that I am human and need time off to take care of me and that is okay.” Carla said during the interview.

  1. Jumana Al Darwish, founder, The Happy Box

Jumana has a Bachelor’s degree in Community and Ethnic Studies from Concordia University in Canada, a Master’s of Science in Evidence-Based Social Intervention from Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and a Strategy Execution Program Certificate from INSEAD in France. She is an award-winning social entrepreneur and philanthropist. She is also the founder of The Happy Box.

“It is easy when you are 21 or 22, but if you do want to start a family, this might be a challenge. There were [a] few [women], just one or two, senior partners at Deloitte when I worked there. It is virtually impossible for most women [to succeed] in those companies because how can you lead a team of 20, who are all men and who are all happy to work till 2 a.m. every day, when you have a family as well? They tell you that you can, but it is just incredibly hard to gain the respect of your colleagues because you are not there [as much as they are]. That is the challenge that one faces, and has to accept in a big corporation like that. However, my biggest reason for wanting to leave and start my own thing was the company’s inability to be agile. They can’t move quickly. If a junior has got an idea or even if partners have got an idea, it has to go through 17 different levels of approval. I was buzzing with ideas every day. They don’t want that from an assistant manager. They want people to come and do their day job, but I wanted to be able to think of and implement an idea on a daily basis.” she said during her interview with entrepreneur.com.

  1. Sarah Jones, founder, Sprii.com

Sprii.com is an award-winning online shopping destination in the GCC providing ‘Everything for Mums’. She holds a degree in Economics from Edinburgh University, Sarah’s strong financial acumen has helped her successfully close three rounds of funding, attracting global investors from the world of retail, finance and logistics, securing over USD15 million to date.

“When negotiating, a man on the other side of the table is not going to confront you, or be as ego-driven as he would be with another man. However, it is about how you conduct yourself… The same applies to men. It works both ways; it’s not just a woman thing. There is a way to conduct yourself to be taken seriously.” she quoted during an interview with entrepreneur.com.

  1. Joy Ajlouny, co-founder, Fetchr

Ajlouny Is Passionate About Encouraging And Investing Knowledge Into The Young Women Of Tomorrow. Ajlouny Recently Took The Stage At The World Economic Forum In Jordan And BoF VOICES In The UK. Her Talks Are Not Only Centered Upon Her Businesses, But On The Realities Of Being A Female Entrepreneur, The Double Bind And The Relentlessness It Takes To Secure A Position That Counters The Traditional Roles Allocated For Women.

“Pitching to investors is something Ajlouny knows well. She is among the 1% of female entrepreneurs worldwide that have raised larger funding amounts from most prestigious international venture capital firms. Furthermore, she has done it more than once- in addition to successfully exiting Bonfaire, she closed a funding round for Fetchr, raising over $11 million in Series A. Ajlouny hopes that the success she has seen -and the work that she has done to get it- will encourage more women in the region to take advantage of the opportunities accorded to them, and not turn a blind eye to them.” according to entrepreneur.com.

“I’ve always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success.”
― Gloria Vander


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