The Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), the Gulf’s biggest equity market, said today that it has named Sarah al-Suhaimi as Chairman of the Board of Directors, making her the first woman to lead a top government financial institution in the kingdom.
Such appointments are uncommon in conservative Saudi Arabia where women face many restrictions, including not being able to mix with men at the workplace. But in the business world, they are gradually coming to enjoy greater opportunities, partly because of heavy government spending on women’s education including state-funded scholarships to foreign universities.
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Ms. Al-Suhaimi has an impressive resume even before moving to head the Arab world’s largest stock exchange. Sarah joins Tadawul from NCB Capital, where she served as the CEO of the kingdom’s leading investment bank, a bank that has $12 billion in assets under management. Before this, she worked for seven years as head of portfolio management at Jadwa Investment. Prior to this she served five years on the asset-management team at Samba Financial Group.
Ms Al-Suhaimi, whose father Jammaz was head of the country’s Capital Market Authority between 2004 and 2006, is a Harvard University alumni, having completed the General Management Programme in 2015. She graduated from King Saud University with a bachelor of administrative science in the field of accounting.
Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without authorisation from their male guardians. It is also the only country to ban women from driving and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian.