Top 20 Under 30: Meet Saudi Arabia’s Young Female Trailblazers
Inspired by Saudi Arabia's Vision for 2030
Under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s leadership, Saudi Arabia has been focusing on realizing Vision 2030, an ambitious plan that is set to completely transform the Kingdom, a key part of which involves reforms targeted towards improving the lives of women in the country. Today, as Saudi Arabia continues on its journey towards improving the rights of women in every sphere, AboutHer would like to honour some of the country’s top female personalities under the age of 30.
Our top 20 list, which celebrates the Kingdom’s most innovative, inspiring, and exceptional women from across various sectors, has been consolidated by a committee of their peers.
Sarah Ayed bent Mohammed Al Ayed
Al Ayed is the co-founder of the Trans Arabian Creative Communications Services (TRACCS), a top PR firm that oversees important regional and multinational companies, and, until 2012, she was a Director of Strategy and Business Development in Saudi Arabia. Al Ayed is a prominent leading figure in the public relations industry across the GCC countries and is also one of the most prominent Saudi businesswomen today. She was ranked 26th on Forbes’ Most Influential Women in the Arab World in Family Business list (March 2013).
Dahlan is an accomplished lawyer, researcher, and activist in social and human rights. She holds an undergraduate degree in Law and postgraduate degree in Islamic Law from Cairo University. Dahlan has served as legal consultant in a number of Arab countries including Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Lebanon. She is the founder of Tashkeil Global Company and the Saudi National Creative Initiative.
Dr. Malak Al Thagafi
Scientist and researcher, as well as Chairperson of Genomics Research Department at King Fahd Medical City since June 2016 in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Al Thagafi has had a successful career that has seen her acquiring a number of international and local awards.
Dr. Nadia Baeshen
Dean of the College of Economic and Business Administration at King Abdul Aziz University, Dr. Baeshen has served as member in several councils and service committees and has worked hard to ensure that Saudi women have improved social and cultural status. She established Khadija bint Khuwailid Center to serve Saudi business women, as well as a branch to train, qualify, and empower Saudi women in the technical and vocational domain. Dr. Baeshen also established a number of academic colleges.
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1. Lujain Al Ubaid
Al Ubaid is the CEO and co-founder of Tasamy for Social Entrepreneurship in Riyadh and is also the founder of Social Entrepreneurship. Having participated in the World Summit for Governments held in Dubai earlier this year, she went on to become a member of the board of directors for Al-Jehad Organization, in addition to her work as event expert at Eventana. In 2016, she made the 100 Most Influential Arab Personalities list in Arabian Business magazine and was honored by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for her voluntary work with Al- Jehad Organization. In 2014, Al Ubaid was chosen by Google as its ambassador for Saudi universities and, in 2015, she joined the associate program for the American ACUMEN organization, working as Executive Manager for Strategy at Ignis Careers. Lujain studied Finance in Al Yamamah University in Saudi Arabia, was part of the Executive Education Program for Non-Profit Organizations at Columbia Business School in 2014, and participated in the Harvard Business School Women’s Executive Leadership Program in 2015.
2. Amani Alshalan
Alshalan is the founder of the Saudi Khair Initiative, which aims at providing help for those in need and was launched in memory of her late mother. Following its establishment, the initiative quickly developed to include an online application, providing easier access to anyone who wanted to make a charitable donation by allowing them to simply register and make the number of donations they choose. The site also allows for those in need to ask for help. Alshalan was granted the Prince Mohammed bin Fahd Award for ‘Young Female Leader – Community Development’ due to Khair’s facilitation of linking donations to those in need in a more direct and innovative way.
3. Dr. Nadia Dandachi
Dr. Dandachi studied medicine at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah and is also a pianist by passion. Through her love for music, she has acquired several local and international awards to date, including first place at an International Piano Competition, and the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Award in 2016. As a child, Dr. Dandachi played a number of recitals and later learned how to play both Arabic and foreign pieces just by listening, going on to participate in several national events. As part of her most memorable performances, Dr. Dandachi has played a special piece of music, which she dedicated to Syrians, expressing empathy for their suffering and the destruction of their country.
4. Shahad Nagro
Nagro is the first Saudi woman to hold an ICF Certified Coach in Performance Development qualification from Gallup International. She is amongst the first batch of Saudi students who graduated in coaching and received their license from the Canadian Erickson organization. Through her work in the field of innovation and business development at Tam Development LLC, she managed to design more than 20 concepts for national and regional programs aimed at the empowerment of communities and skill development for the youth, including the Israr Award, Qumra Program, and Makers of Hope. Nagro has represented Saudi Arabia on a number of international platforms including the G20 summit, the International Conference on Youth Volunteering and Dialogue, and the Japanese Peace Boat.
5. Sarah Dawood Khmais
Currently a lecturer at the Art and Design College, Jeddah University, Khmais previously held several positions in a number of companies and design houses inside and outside of Jeddah. Amongst her key works is a number of awareness campaigns on products launched in Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries. A graduate of Graphic Design from Dar Al-Hekma University, Khmais received her master’s degree from Suffolk University in Boston, USA. Her work during her master’s program at New England School of Art and Design, which is affiliated with Suffolk University, was greatly influenced by calligraphy and typography. Khmais has participated in several conferences and workshops on calligraphy and design in Jeddah, Dubai, London, and Boston. She specializes in calligraphy and established the idea of “Letter Floral” in which she uses flowers and green leaves, turning them into Arabic letters and words. Khmais has also designed several books using this concept for the Arab Arwa Publishing House, where she worked as a designer and graphics consultant.
6. Nermeen Ekrami
Ekrami is the founding member of the first, non-profit, traveling bookshop in the world and is winner of a number of programs and awards including the TV program Khawater 8, Youth Business Expo (2012), and Made by My Hands Expo (2013). She is a biochemistry graduate and has a passion for graphics and design, with a dream is to one day build smart mosques.
7. Taala Fahd Abolnaja
Abolnaja, a Saudi student in Dhahran, made headlines across the country after creating a project that landed her the world-renowned Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) Award. Her project, “Improving Communication for the Visually Impaired through an Innovative Arabic Writing System,” propelled her to the third place in the Behavioural and Social Sciences Category. Abolnaja’s project was also recognized with a special award from the American Psychology Association.
8. Emon Abdul Shakoor
Abdul Shakoor is the Vice President of XS Conferences, a company that works on organizing specialized conferences and exhibitions, and she is the founder of EventFen, a mobile application that allows users to locate social and professional events in Saudi Arabia. Abdul Shakoor is a Cognitive Science graduate from UC San Diego, where she worked as a field researcher at the university's laboratories. Prior to her current role, Abdul Shakoor worked as a research associate at Pfizer where she participated with 50 other members to offer inspiring experiences for entrepreneurs during the International Davos Economic Forum.
9. Rawan Al-Bateeri
Al Bateeri participated in the World Economic Forum in 2016 as the youngest Saudi woman at the global event. She is one of the brightest and most prominent names in Finance at Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, and is also one of the nominees for the Global Shapers Award, which is given to those who have made monumental achievements before reaching the age of 30. For her bachelor’s in Financial resources, which she studied in the US, Al Bateeri was awarded a scholarship by the Two Holy Mosques Overseas Scholarship Program. Today, she is preparing to participate in the Olympiad fencing team, becoming the first Saudi woman to participate in this sport.
10. Waad Al-Dousari
Al-Dousari is a member of Prince Mohammad bin Fahd’s Youth Leadership Centre and has represented Saudi Arabia in many countries within youth-related domains. At the young age of 13, she attended the Shura Council sessions and received 20 certificates for her leadership skills alone. She is currently a law student at Prince Mohammad bin Fahd University.
11. Samah Hashim Kamel
Kamel is a professional mangaka (Japanese for “manga artist”) who has participated in several art exhibitions and competitions in Saudi Arabia, as well as internationally, including the MEFCC Comic Con contest held in Dubai (in 2014 and 2016) and the manga and anime exhibition (held in 2016) at Al-Khayat Gallery under the title "I Am Art.” Kamel has also produced a short comic story, "Sweet Without Sugar," a campaign launched by Sayidaty Magazine in 2015. She earned her master’s degree from the College of Art and Design at King Abdul Aziz University with a thesis entitled "How to Use Manga Art to Represent the Kingdom's Culture through its Proverbs.” Kamel also holds a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Arts from Home Economics College at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah.
12. Dana Abdulwahab Al-Khaldi
Al-Khaldi is an innovative scientist who won third place at Intel ISEF International Science and Engineering Fair in 2017 for her project “A Novel Approach for the Preparation of High Efficiency Water Splitting Photo Catalysts to Produce Hydrogen as a Source for Renewable Energy.”
13. Kholoud Al-Abbasi
Al-Abbasi is a Saudi Inventor who, at the age of 16, has already won an honorary award as the best Saudi success story of 2016. She was honoured in the KSA and has become known as “The World's Best Inventor” by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), which is the world's largest organization for inventors.
14. Farah Arif
Arif is a Saudi animator who today has a strong presence in the world of animation in the Kingdom. She participated in the Ramadan Quiz on Saudi television’s first channel and has from a young age covered national festivals and occasions for television including Janadriyah Festivals. Arif studied Computer Science but her passion took her to the world of animation where she has continued to develop her passion using specialized programs and without any assistance. Google has chosen Arif as their student ambassador for the Middle East. Her animation, "Abtal Awal," has won the "most voted for" award for iBroadcast competition held by King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture.
15. Kadi Al-Dwaihi
Before reaching 10 years of age, Al-Dwaihi has already left her mark at the Misk Global Forum with her invention: a pen that emits light to locate broken bones when it is passed over the body. She has spoken about her innovation during an interactive discussion at the Youth Development in 2030 Agenda, received a gold medal in 2016 for her pen at Itex (Imaging & Technology Education Exposition) held in Malaysia, and took home the silver medal at Kiwi 2016, which was held in South Korea.
16. Maha Al-Sadoon
Al-Sadoon is an inventor who won the gold medal for developing the Counter Weight Hydraulic Piston at the Geneva Inventions Exhibition this year. The exhibition included 822 inventions from 40 countries. Her invention consists of a mechanical unit that is used to pump liquids and gases at any required pressure rate, with almost free and very limited energy consumption. The device works with remote control without any human effort, reducing operating costs. Al Sadoon’s invention is used to pump seawater to desalination plants that work using reverse osmosis. It can also generate pressured air used in operating car engines and turbines. Al-Sadoon has a master’s degree in Strategic Management, currently works at the Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning, and will soon be transferred to the National Center for Strategic Development Studies.
17. Razan Al-Aqeel
An undergraduate student in Political Science at Appalachian State University, North Carolina, Al-Aqeel spent a significant amount of her time in the United States representing Saudi Arabia through youth-oriented programs. In 2015, she participated in the 10-month-long Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program in North Carolina. As part of the program, she lived with an American family and studied in an American school, with the aim of realizing the main objective of the program, which is to provide Americans with the opportunity to learn firsthand about different cultures from across the world. The program also required participants to devote their time to monthly volunteer work and to give speeches at various venues. Al-Aqeel also represented her country as the first Saudi and Arab national to participate in the Youth Assembly at the United Nations (UN), which was held in the United States under the slogan “The World We Want 2030.” The assembly brought together participants from around the globe to discuss some 150 global issues and to propose solutions envisioned from a youth perspective.
18. Hanadi Al-Qahtani
Currently a banking student, Al-Wahtani is better known as an award-winning Saudi inventor. She is the mastermind behind an intelligent and interactive device designed to protect children and properties from theft and destruction. Al-Wahtani invention, which accurately identifies a thief or kidnapper, has already received several awards in local and international exhibitions. Her most recent honor was at the Korea International Women’s Invention Exposition (KIWIE), where she took home the gold medal. Amongst her most recent accolades are a gold medal during an exhibition in China, a silver in Taiwan, and the title of Best Inventor at an exhibition organized by Imam Mohammad Ibn Saudi Islamic University.
19. Shahad Al-Azzaz
Al-Azzaz is an engineer and founder of Azaz Architects, a boutique agency that offers a unique philosophy and approach when it comes to design, engineering, and architecture. As a high school graduate, Al-Azzaz ranked second place in the Kingdom’s Najd region. After high school, she then moved to the United Kingdom to study architecture at the University of Manchester. After completing her bachelor’s degree, Al-Azzaz headed to Spain, where she graduated with an MA in Architectural Design and Project Management from the prestigious IE Business School in Madrid. During her time in Spain, she interned and then went on to manage projects that she brought in from the Middle East for seven years at one of the most prestigious firms in the country.
20. Aseel Al-Hamad
A Saudi Arabian entrepreneur, interior designer, and motorsport enthusiast, Al-Hamad is the first Saudi female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation. She is also a member of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission based in Paris and the first Saudi woman to drive in the Formula One, where she performed a celebratory lap in a Renault Formula One car during the 8th round of the French Grand Prix circuit in front of thousands of fans. Aseel is also the founder and director of design at IDEGREE DESIGN and she is the head of the sportscar division in Rose Auto Magazine. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Design Engineering from Prince Sultan University.