Women Advancing in Middle East Finance

Private equity is an industry in which women only account for 9% of senior management positions across the globe. In general, 60% of American women enter the job market, while in the Middle East, the number barely reaches 25%. These realities make it even more impressive that one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Middle East is a woman named Hoda Abou-Jamra.

The founding partner of a $40 million health care fund in Dubai, Ms. Abou-Jamra now runs her own private equity fund. She explained that in the beginning, potential investors would come to meetings and think she was the secretary.

“I would ask a question, and they would answer to the man next to me. I would answer their question, and they would look at him,” she said. “I didn’t let it bother me. I just stood up straighter and talked louder.”

Other women have had similar experiences, and they too found that creating a new financial firm is better than working inside one that already exists. Maha Al-Ghunaim is another woman who expanded into private equity on her own.

“When you are climbing the ladder, you have to balance between speed and safety,” she explained.

According to Dina Kawar, the Jordanian ambassador in France, “for the gulf states, in the last decade, women have become a lot more entrepreneurial.”