International Women’s Day 2020: Bahraini FinTech puts female empowerment in the spotlight


With one of the most diverse workforces in the region, Bahrain believes strongly in putting equality first – from the classroom to the boardroom. According to the most recent figures, some 60% of computer science students at the University of Bahrain were women, and also accounted for 33.2% of managerial positions in the financial sector. Meanwhile, the 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report named Bahrain as the country with the highest share of female founders in the world.

To mark International Women’s Day 2020, we are proud to highlight some of the Kingdom’s most prominent female leaders working across our fast-growing FinTech industry. As we strive in Bahrain to be #EachForEqual, female empowerment is high on our agenda.

  1. Areije Al Shakar, Director and Fund Manager, Al Waha Fund of Funds

A regular commentator on diversity in startups, Areije Al Shakar is the Director and Fund Manager of Al Waha Fund of Funds. With 15 years of experience in banking and entrepreneurship, Areije is an expert in start-up seed funding and entrepreneur development.  She has been involved in the development of  several support services for entrepreneurs, namely her role in establishing BDB’s Rowad Program, a holistic entrepreneur support platform and SeedFuel-Rowad, start-up funding program, managed and run out of the Development Services and part of the Global Accelerator Network. She has previously commented on the Middle East’s role as a “surprising global leader in start-up diversity”, saying: “At one in three, the number of female-founded start-ups in the region is far higher than in more established start-up hubs.”

  1. Yasmeen Al-Sharaf, Head of FinTech & Innovation Unit, Central Bank of Bahrain 

Yasmeen Al-Sharaf is responsible for overseeing the Central Bank of Bahrain’s substantial FinTech & Innovation Unit, which is tasked with building a robust regulatory framework that fosters innovation in the financial services sector. She is frequently included in lists of top FinTech leaders, and sits at a senior level in multiple organisations including the Women in FinTech Bahrain Committee. Most recently this month, Yasmeen was included in Innovate Finance UK’s Women in FinTech Powerlist 2019 in the Policy Makers and Regulatory Experts Category from a long-list of 650 globally. She said: “I am proud to be representing Bahraini women in the FinTech field and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Innovate Finance for this selection and for their recognition and I look forward to seeing more recognitions for successful Bahraini women.”

  1. Najla Al Shirawi, Chief Executive Officer, SICO Bank  

Naming Najla Al Shirawi on its 2020 Power list, Forbes magazine noted: “If there were glass ceilings to be smashed, these are some of the titans that first smashed them.” With more than 21 years of investment banking experience, Najla Al Shirawi has been part of SICO since 1997, and was appointed CEO in 2014. She also served with Geneva-based Dar Al-Maal Al-Islami Trust, establishing private banking operations for the Group in the Gulf region. She is a Board member at the Bahrain Economic Board (EDB) and a Chairperson on the Board of Directors for two SICO subsidiaries: SICO Funds Services Company (SFS) in Bahrain and SICO Financial Brokerage in Abu Dhabi. She is also an Independent Board Member of Eskan Bank BSC(c), Bahrain and a Board Member of the Deposit Protection Scheme, Bahrain, the Bahrain Associations of Banks, and the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance.

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