In collaboration with IABC, International Association of Business Communicators EMENA Region, “Women to Watch In The Gulf Region” is a feature that spotlights  women making a mark on communications in the Gulf region. The list recognizes the finest women calibers from the region. The theme of year is “The Eccentrics” – reflecting on the trailblazing achievements these women have made through their brands and agencies. 

  1. Aida Al BusaidyDirector for C2C Campaigns, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing 

           A name which has long been familiar with Dubai’s media scene, Aida Al Busaidy was one of the hosts of Her Say, an effort by Dubai One TV station to create a chat show concept that represented the diverse culture of  Dubai. Before that, she was one of the first Emirati women to work agency side when she joined Bates PanGulf in 2003.

Since then, Aida has carved a path as one of the highest profile Emirati communicators. She’s held roles with Dubai Group, as VP for Internal Communications, and at Masdar, where she led on communications. She joined Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing at the end of 2013. Today, she oversees the development and implementation of campaigns focused on consumer to consumer engagement through influencer marketing.

Aida’s experience also includes journalism. She graduated from Arkansas State University in 2003 with a degree in journalism, and she spent three years as a columnist with The National.

2. Hala Badri: Senior Advisor to the CEO and Group Communications, ADNOC

An Emirati national, Hala Badri headed up marcomms at the telecommunications firm Du for over 11 years. As the Executive Vice President for Brand & Communications at du, she led the telco’s brand positioning from its inception and created a marketing unit that constantly won awards both for effectiveness and creativity.

Prior to Du, Badri joined Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) in 1998 as a brand executive. She managed the group’s corporate brands, corporate communications, websites, sponsorships, exhibitions and conferences locally and internationally for seven years.

Badri returned to the oil and gas sector last year, helping ADNOC reposition its branding and communications under the leadership of CEO Dr Sultan Al-Jaber.

Badri is a graduate of INSEAD’s International Directors Programme. She holds an MBA in Managing E-business from Zayed University and a Higher Diploma in Communication Technology from the Dubai Women’s College. She is also a two-time winner of the Sheikh Rashid Awards for Scientific Excellence.

3. Hend Al Otaiba: Communications Advisor, UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Hend Al Otaiba is one of the highest profile Emirati communicators in Abu Dhabi. She supports the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as it seeks to communicate the country’s narrative externally. Prior to this, she was director of communications at Abu Dhabi Media, where she was responsible for the corporate and commercial engagement strategies of more than 27 media brands, in addition to developing and supervising ADM’s corporate communications and public affairs functions.

Prior to embarking on her career at Abu Dhabi Media, Ms Al Otaiba led the communications department of the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island at the Tourism and Culture Authority.  Here, she played a major role in promoting Abu Dhabi’s cultural institutions and positioning the Emirate as a cultural hub.

4. Hind Al-Nahedh: Founder and CEO, SociaLobby

A pioneer in the social media space, not only in Kuwait but in the wider Gulf, Hind Al-Nahedh’s experience spans Corporate Communications, social media, integrated marketing, collaboration and blogging. Hind started her career by attaining her BA in Mass Communication from Kuwait University.

After working in the Telecom industry for firms like Nokia and the Tamdeen Group, Hind became head of Public Relations & Marketing Communications Department at VIVA telecom, where she launched the Commercial brand of VIVA. While at VIVA, Hind oversaw PR campaigns, media policies and relations, programs, promotions, branch launchings, internal and external communication and branding.

In 2010 Hind launched the Social Media Department at Viva, whilst also becoming President of Kuwait’s chapter of the Social Media Club. Utilizing her professional expertise, Hind launched her own business, Socialobby, which provides social media intelligence, training, digital marketing, campaigning, lobbying, and creates opportunity for online and offline collaboration. SociaLobby’s mission is to educate the customer to build strategic relations and communications.

5. Huda Buhumaid: Chief Marketing Officer, Dubai Holding

An Emirati national, Huda Buhumaid joined Dubai Holding in 2006, initially as the managing director for marketing and communications before taking on a Senior Vice President Communications role. Today, she is responsible for the conglomerate’s branding, marketing, corporate communications, public relations and CSR.

Buhumaid has played a significant role in developing Dubai’s corporate identity; she successfully developed and launched new brand identities for companies such as Borse Dubai, Emirates Investment Authority, as well as re-branding Dubai International Financial Exchange into NASDAQ Dubai.

Previously, Buhumaid worked in the private sector, with Citibank UAE. Buhumaid is a graduate of INSEAD’s Executive Leadership Programme. She holds a master’s degree in Organisational Excellence with Honours from Bradford University, UK, and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Higher Colleges of Technology, Dubai.

She’s also served as the Vice Chair for the Middle East Public Relations Association, and has been a board member for the TECOM Group and Khaleej Times.

6. Jehan Abdulkarim: Middle East and North Africa Marketing & Communications Director, Accenture

Hailing from Bahrain, Jehan Abdulkarim’s background in software engineering has helped her carve out a distinctive career in the technology sector, after co-founding and leading Saudi Arabia’s first technology and business magazine — which effectively made her the Kingdom’s first female managing editor. Abdulkarim followed that up by taking on senior roles at Cisco and Oracle, before her current position at Accenture, where her passion for technology and innovation shines through. Abdulkarim is also a vocal advocate for female advancement in the Gulf, a critical issue given the challenges that still persist.

In addition to her marcomms roles, Abdulkarim founded the first Saudi-based technology and business magazine and is frequently sought out to speak and provide commentary on business, technology and social issues relating to Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region. Her expertise covers corporate communications, content and digital marketing, lead generation, social media, media relations and public affairs.

Abdulkarim holds a Masters degree in business administration with specialization in international business and marketing from the University of Bradford School of Management. She also holds a BEng in software engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. Jehan’s passions include photography – she has traveled and dived throughout the world with her camera in hand – as well as horticulture.

7. Kindah Sais: Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion, ‎Boeing

A Saudi national, Kindah Sais has been working in the diversity and inclusion function for over 17 years with a variety of organizations. Sais led the D&I practice for Procter & Gamble in Saudi Arabia since 2006, when she joined the company as the first Saudi female in the company’s human resources department. Her efforts in building and promoting P&G’s female employee presence in Saudi Arabia have been recognized globally, both internally by P&G as well as externally.

Today, she leads up the Diversity & Inclusion practice in the region for the aviation giant Boeing. Prior to working with Procter & Gamble, Sais worked with a number of multinational and Saudi-based organizations including Microsoft, Starbucks, and Memac Ogilvy & Mather.

Sais, who was chosen as one of Saudi Arabia’s top 100 business women back in 2011, holds a Bachelor’s Degree with a triple major in International Business, Management and E-Commerce & Information Systems, from Seattle University’s Alber’s School of Business & Economics and an MBA from the American University of Beirut.

8. Lulwa Sami Ebrahim: Acting Director of Communications & Marketing, Directorate Information & eGovernment Authority

With over 16 solid years of experience in strategic marketing, communication planning and implementation; Ms. Lulwa currently holds the post of an Acting Director to the Communications & Marketing  Directorate. Prior to joining the public sector, she served 7 years in the Telecommunications & ICT industry – holding several positions in the PR & Marketing arena at the Bahrain Telecommunications Company (BATELCO), moving later on to the Banking industry to focus on rebranding as the PR & Corporate Communications Manager at Seera Investment Bank.

Holding a number of impressive qualifications, Ms. Ebrahim has attained her MBA degree in Branding within the Service Sector from the University of Strathclyde, UK; LCCI Diploma from the London Chamber of Commerce; Bachelor’s in Business Management & Marketing from the University of Bahrain; along with Professional Leadership degree from the University of Oxford. A graduate of the first batch of Kawader and a Certified Brand Manager, Ms. Lulwa is also conducting Social Media professional degree at present.

Besides being a Jury member of the Bahrain eContent Awards in 2009 and while possessing a wealth of corporate communications knowledge in telecommunications, media relations, social media, marketing communications, events and campaign management; she is at present a Board Member of the Bahrain-UK Alumni and prior Board Member of the Bahrain Internet Society.

9.Maha Adnan: Corporate Marketing Manager, Sunbulah Group

Maha is one of Saudi Arabia’s brightest young marketing and communication talents. A graduate of the Procter & Gamble marketing school, where she headed up public relations for the firm’s household care and femcare brands, Maha was an early pioneer in the space of social media, which she used to build both reputation and trial with consumers.

Today, Maha leads the corporate marketing at Sunbulah Group, one of Saudi’s largest food manufacturers. She’s responsible for executing brand messaging across both traditional and non-traditional marketing channels and using different promotional methods to reinforce Sunbulah’s market leadership.

A Jeddah native who has studied Graphic Communication outside of the Kingdom, Maha previously worked as a graphic designer. Maha is an example of the new generation of female marcomms professionals who are multitalented, digital natives that are both at home developing traditional marketing concepts as well as online campaigns.

10. Nora Al Shiha: Marketing Excellence director, Middle East & Africa at Schneider Electric

One of the famous Cisco Saudi women who joined the IT giant during its rapid expansion in the Kingdom, Nora has gone from being a Co-op to managing Cisco’s social media and web marketing, to overseeing group marketing for Hewlett Packard Enterprise across Saudi Arabia.

In 2015 Nora joined Schneider Electric, and was tasked with leading all marketing and public relations in the Middle East for the engineering giant. Her remit was recently expanded last year to include customer engagement.

A graduate of King Saudi University in Riyadh, Nora majored in information technology. She graduated in 2009.

11. Princess Reema Bandar Al Saud:  Vice-President for Development and Planning, Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority

Princess Reema’s work across philanthropy, social purpose and business has consistently challenged gender conventions in conservative Saudi Arabia. This first gained international attention via her work as chief executive of luxury retailer Alfa International, where she made significant strides in terms of bringing women into the workforce, marking her out as a unique champion of business innovation.

In 2010, the marketing and PR worlds took notice when Princess Reema’s ‘Woman’s Stand’ campaign won Best in Show at the EMEA SABRE Awards, after raising awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection by creating the world’s largest pink ribbon. Since then, Princess Reema has also founded corporate social responsibility initiative Alf Khair, which aims to build a vocal community of creative talent in Saudi Arabia.

Princess Reema’s growing list of firsts are helping break down barriers for Saudi women. In 2016, she was put in charge of the Kingdom’s first division for women in sports. Last year, Princess Reema was tapped to head a Saudi multi-sports federation, in a first for women in the country where men dominate all sports.

Princess Reema attended George Washington University graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Museum studies.

12. Saba Al Busaidi: Communications Specialist, Oman Oil Company Exploration & Production

Saba Al Busaidi is one of the most prominent advocates of digital and social media in the Gulf. She frequently talks about digital marketing in both languages, in Arabic and English. Saba started her career as a civil engineer working with internationally renowned entities such as Atkins and Faithful & Gould. She then followed her passion in the field of social media and was voted the youngest entrepreneur in the Sultanate of Oman.

Saba was the first Omani women to to be certified as a Social Media Strategist. She has also played a big role in supporting local talent and small-to-medium enterprises. Her local market knowledge is complimented by a dynamic understanding of Omani government rules, regulations, and practices.

Al Busaidi was awarded the Omani Women’s Excellence award in the field of technology in 2014 for her promotion of digital and social media concepts. She recently graduated from an Executive Education program in “Leadership” from Harvard University.

13. Wasna Ben Gassem: Saudi Arabia Country Marketing Manager, Hewlett Packard 

Wasna’s career has spanned the private sector, government and the agency side. A Saudi national, Wasna began her career during university when she worked part time as an IT administrator and Microsoft Student partner at King Saud University.

Following her graduation, Wasna joined Cisco Systems as an online marketing manager, handling digital campaigns and managing the internal/external online communications. Wasna switched back to technology afterwards, working as a network engineer for the King Abdullah Project for Education Development. After a year away, she couldn’t resist returning to marketing and joined JWT in 2010 as a senior digital designer. Her clients included STC, SABB, SACO, SAGIA, LUX and Moussy.

In 2012, Wasna returned to the corporate side and joined Hewlett Packard as the enterprise group marketing manager. She oversees both direct and partner marketing campaigns, and develops, executes, and evaluates marketing strategies and tactics that drive demonstrable revenue.