Let’s be honest: it hasn’t always been easy to be a woman in finance. It is a sector that remains largely male-dominated, especially when it comes to top roles. Women often face tougher scrutiny, are expected to work harder to achieve the same results as their male counterparts, and are overlooked for chief roles.
There is still a certain degree of discrimination that women in finance have to face, but the industry is definitely moving forward and the future is looking bright for lots of some incredibly successful women that are behind some of the world’s biggest investment institutions – banks, funds, venture capitals, private equity, startup accelerators, you name it!
So, in the spirit of female empowerment, we turn to these awesome women who put their money where their mouth is, representing a tangible shift in the financial sector’s gender balance. They are inspiring investors who have trailblazed the path for many more to come, and these are their stories.
Areije Al Shakar, Director and Fund Manager at Al Waha Venture Capital Fund of Funds and Senior Vice President at Bahrain Development Bank
One of the most inspiring women in finance in Bahrain, Areije Al Shakar worked for a series of reputable financial institutions before her current role as Fund Manager at Al Waha “Fund of Funds”. We’re talking Citibank, BNP Paribas, Investcorp… you name it, she’s done it until eventually, she decided it was time to shift towards what she believed was more impactful work.
She joined Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) in 2010, where she found a passion for providing more than just capital to young entrepreneurs – she went on to become a coach, mentor and business advisor all at once. She launched the Rowad Program in 2015, a support platform for entrepreneurs that helps them navigate the business cycle all the way from start-up funding through to growth and profit management. And through Al Waha, Al Shakar fosters and stimulate Bahrain’s startup ecosystem, providing funds to support promising business ideas across the region.
Talk about finding purpose!
Amal Dokhan, CEO of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Saudi Arabia
Amal Dokhan (aka queen of innovation) is currently the CEO of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Saudi Arabia, but she has been at the forefront of the entrepreneurial scene across MENA for over a decade.
In recent years, she took on leading roles at the Babson Global Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the VentureLab at Prince Mohammed Bin Salman College, and at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, where she was a part of the Entrepreneurship Center (the university startup accelerator that was sponsored by the Saudi British Bank).
Within her GEN role, she focuses on furthering the startup ecosystem in KSA via angel investor training and her many startup accelerator initiatives. Essentially what Dokhan has done is open the doors for fellow entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia by funding innovative ventures, being involved in education and consultancy, and making the startup ecosystem in KSA more appealing nationally and internationally.
By way of her success, she also broke a ton of glass ceilings and inspired fellow Saudi women to follow their dreams regardless of gender restrictions. The bottom line is – is there anything this woman CAN’T do?!
Najla Al-Midfa, CEO of Sheraa and Founder of Khayarat
Najla Al-Midfa is the CEO of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), a government-backed entity with the objective to help the startup ecosystem in Sharjah expand by supporting young entrepreneurs. What started off as a small seed-like fund is now the largest entrepreneurship drive in the UAE for young people.
Al-Midfa’s commitment to pass the torch to the younger generations expands beyond Sheraa, as she also founded Khayarat, a platform that teaches Emiratis how to make better business and career choices.
Al-Midfa is also a member of the Aspen Institute’s Global Leadership Network. But this powerhouse lady is not just an inspiration on paper – she is always ready to roll up her sleeves and do the real work. These are just some of the boards she has been or is associated with: Young Arab Leaders, Middle East Venture Capital Association, Education for Employment UAE, Women Corporate Directors GCC, and Sharjah Business Women Council. Impressive, right?
Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest
Sallie Krawcheck, one of the most prominent businesswomen in the world, is known for being vocal about gender issues in finance. The impact of her work throughout the years is far from quiet as well.
Born in the 1960s in South Carolina, Krawcheck climbed the finance ladder the old-school way: she was an equity analyst covering Wall Street, working her way up to top roles in firms such as Sanford C. Bernstein & Co and Citigroup.
In 2009, Krawcheck was hired by Bank of America to be the president of their new Global Wealth & Investment Management unit, and she was responsible for driving major profits even at a time of financial crisis for the bank. Following, this veteran boss lady carried on to found her own company, Ellevest, a digital investment platform tailored for women.
As the CEO of Ellevest, Krawcheck’s goal is to educate and coach people in the industry about issues such as gender inequality and pay disparity. Ellevest wants to redefine how women invest, in a way that helps close the gender investing gap in the US. In addition, she is the chair of Ellevate Network, a network for professional women around the globe, and the chair of the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Leadership Fund, which puts its money into companies that commit to advancing women.
Krawcheck learned the hard way what is like to be a woman in finance, so she is fiercely braving the way for those who come after her. Hooray for the sisterhood!