Ms. Lubna Al-Olayan as being a trailblazer in the finance industry is a prime example on the Saudi woman’s creditworthiness and competence even in such a challenging field.
Up-brining & Education
Al-Olayan who originally belongs to one of the wealthiest families in the Middle East was born and grew up in Al-Qassim region. She is a holder of Bachelor of Arts and Science in agriculture, Cornell University and MBA from Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
You can call her one of the most prominent businesswoman in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East if not the most prominent. Adding to running one of the greatest commercial empires in Saudi Arabia, Olayan Financing Co., she has been assuming a number of considerable posts, including being an executive committee member in the Arab Business Council (ABC) of the World Economic Forum, a Board member of Trustees of the Arab Thought Foundation. Also, she is a member of the board of directors of some industrial and investment companies. Of these, we mention; Rolls-Royce Group, WPP group, Akbank Bank in Turkey, Schlumberger, apart from being a member of the Board of Trustees of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
In a first for a woman in Saudi Arabia, Al-Olayan, who was previously elected to the board of Saudi Hollandi Bank in 2004 becoming the first Saudi lady to ascend such a post, has been chosen to chair the third-largest lender in Saudi Arabia formed out of the biggest merger and acquisition deal between the Saudi Arabia British Bank (SABB) and Alawwal Bank. This can be regarded as a step towards empowering Saudi women under Saudi Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
No one can deny that Al-Olayan spares no effort to well represent Saudi Arabia in several forums; last Oct. she co-chaired the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum, the first annual summit of U.S. and Saudi CEOs and Saudi government officials in pursuit of establishing bilateral trade. With a view to diversify Saudi sources of income other than oil, she issues stock shares in some of the local assets of her company, which holds in turns stakes in companies such as Middle Eastern Burger King franchises and tubular oil-field equipment.
Advocating Saudi Women
“I do believe that Saudi women are extremely powerful as much as I believe
that Saudi men form a great support to them.” Al-Olayan said.
On another front, she has been long advocating the Saudi women; she hires around 540 women, and in 2004, she established Al-Olayan Women’s National Action and Development Program “ONWARD” with the aim of empowering Saudi women and increasing the number of female professionals who make up only a small percentage of the total workforce in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, she contributes to a lot of charitable and volunteering activities including Suliman S. Olayan Foundation that provides Social, educational, health, and relief services.
She is always proud of receiving support from the surrounding men as she sees that the most influential men in her life and career are her father, brother, and husband. One of her related and most popular statements:
“Saudi men have sisters, mothers, and wives. All during my career, I have received
massive support from Saudi men. So I do not really think that Saudi Women are oppressed or ill-treated”.
In 2012, Al-Olayan was the first Saudi lady to be awarded the Polar Star Medal by Carl Gustaf, King of Sweden. In 2017, the powerful financer appeared on the most Powerful Women list of Forbes, taking the 59th rank and topped the list of Forbes Middle East’s Most Influential Women 2018. She has also received Honorary Doctorate Degrees, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Ireland.