Qatar 2013 | Investing in Women’s Leadership in the Middle East

Tucked in the Persian Gulf between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Qatar served as the host country for the Global Ambassador Program November 2013. Though fairly small in size, Qatar is one of the most competitive economies in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region and the region as a whole is home to a large group of female entrepreneurs and businesswomen. In Qatar alone, 13 percent of all firms are run by women, and they equal or outperform businesses run by their male counterparts. Though women in MENA are gaining more respect and power in the workforce due to recent policy changes, women still face many barriers as a result of deep-rooted cultural and religious beliefs.

The Global Ambassador Program forum in Qatar focused on furthering the economic empowerment of women business leaders across the MENA region through close mentoring and training sessions. Participants attended organized workshops focused on crisis management, financial management, and lobbying for change as well as one-on-one mentoring sessions from other female businesses leaders from around the globe. These sessions were designed to not only empower the women in the business sector currently, but also to pave the way for other women to join the work force.

To learn more about the event, read the program recap, updates on our blog, read more about the participants in their bios below, or view photos from the event.

Qatar Global Ambassadors

Paula Dominick
Global Compliance Executive, Bank of America
Mentoring Rana Kotaiche

Paula Dominick is responsible for leading and overseeing global compliance activities for Bank of America. She joined the company in 2005 to run the Debt Research division of Banc of America Securities LLC and has since led the company in a number of roles, including as interim chief risk officer in 2011. Prior to joining Bank of America, Paula held leadership and senior analyst positions at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Rana Kotaiche
CEO and Co-owner, Blessing, Lebanon

Rana co-founded Blessing, an upscale full-service chocolate and souvenir catering business with clients throughout the Middle East. She manages day-to-day operations, business development and strategy, and is exploring expansion opportunities. Prior to opening Blessing, Rana got her start at a graphic design firm and at DHL. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut.

Denise Menelly
Head of Operations, Global Wholesale Banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Mentoring Abeer D. Abu Ghaith

Denise Menelly is responsible for delivering end-to-end solutions to Bank of America Corporation’s wholesale clients. She has more than 25 years experience leading positive change in a variety of banking operations, technology and client service functions. Before joining Bank of America, Denise served in senior leadership roles at the Royal Bank of Scotland PLC, Citibank and Bankers Trust Company. Throughout her career, Denise has played a leadership role in creating organizations and programs designed to help women succeed.

Abeer D. Abu Ghaith
Managing Director, StayLinked, Palestine

Abeer has worked extensively in the private, public, global non-profit and educational sectors. She runs StayLinked, a start-up company that aims to increase human development and employment by providing job opportunities for professionals. Abeer is also the Country Officer at Women’s Campaign International (WCI), an international organization working in emerging democracies and post-conflict regions around the world.

Laura Whitley
Head of Consumer Banking Services, Bank of America
Mentoring Ayat Ata-Allah

Laura Whitley leads a team that delivers integrated banking and investment banking solutions to commercial clients both nationally and internationally. She has more than 25 years of financial advisory experience with corporate, institutional and high net worth clients, holding key leadership positions in Global Corporate and Investment Banking and Global Wealth and Investment Management. She began her career with Bank of America in 1983 where she has served in a variety of leadership roles, working with clients from around the world.

Ayat Ata-Allah
Founder, Takween, Palestine

Ayat envisioned creating an environmentally friendly product to reduce the carbon footprint in Palestine. In 2012, her studies and work culminated in a patent for a new thermal insulation material, Paper- Plastic Insulation Boards. Currently Ayat’s composting business, Takween, is unique to the Palestinian market and offers homes and farmers with natural, organic, and environmentally effective fertilizer to prevent air pollution.


Manal Yaish Zraiq
General Director, Massar International, Palestine
Mentoring Eman El Garhi

Manal Zraiq is responsible for the management of the day-to-day business of Massar Associates and oversees the financial operations and project implementation. With more than a decade of executive experience, her wide range of specialized skills include finance, business operations, logistical planning, human resource recruitment and management, accounting and operational management. She managed multi-million dollar projects financed by international donors such as USAID, EU and the World Bank. Manal serves as the president of the Palestinian Women Forum, an association for Palestinian women entrepreneurs and business owners.

Eman El Garhi
Finance and Marketing Director, Unitak for Investment in Real Estate and Tourism, Egypt

Eman co-founded Unitak For Touristic Investment and Real Estate with her family in 1997, a company which built and manages the Logaina Sharm Resort in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. She graduated from the John Cabot University in Rome with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and is currently a board member of Businesswomen of Egypt 21.


Ana Birchall
Member of Parliament, Romania
Mentoring Sahar Dwaikat

As a Member of Parliament, Ana Birchall has promoted policies for youth and women, and recently initiated an ambitious piece of legislation for equal opportunities in Romania. A Romanian qualified lawyer by profession, she has more than 15 years of experience in banking, finance, commercial and international law. She focused on financial restructuring, insolvency, cross-border insolvency proceedings, bank distressed assets, and institutional bankruptcy. Ana has held various senior advisory positions in the Romanian government before her entry into Parliament.

Sahar Dwaikat
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Flyer Ad for Graphic Design, Palestine

In 2011, Sahar founded Flyer Ad for Graphic Design, a Nablus-based company that designs, manufactures and distributes promotional materials tailored to the needs of individual clients. Flyer Ad is registered with the Nablus Chamber of Commerce and operates from the Tomorrow’s Youth Organization center in Nablus. Sahar has participated in several professional development conferences where she has represented Palestinian entrepreneurs and emerging women leaders.

Lauren C. Anderson
International Consultant, USA
Mentoring Dalia Saafan

Lauren is an international consultant, national security and crisis management expert, and a retired FBI Executive with a distinguished career at the agency. Over the past 28 years she has directed high-profile investigations all over the world resulting in the convictions of well-known individuals. She also oversaw the disruption of several significant terrorist plots. Currently she is developing a program to grow the next generation of law enforcement officials in countries emerging from conflict or trauma.

Dalia Saafan
Partner and Head of coaching, Edge Consultants, Egypt

Dalia Saafan has over seven years of experience as a life coach. As partner and head of coaching at Edge Consultants, Dalia has worked with over 3,500 individuals throughout her career. She co-developed the “It’s All About ME” program, which gives people the skills for proactive and positive change in their lives, which a focus on corporations, individuals and youth.


Arije Al-Amad
Consultant for Microfinance, Women’s Empowerment, Coaching and Mentoring
Mentoring Suaad Allami

Arije is currently a freelance consultant specializing in microfinance and training/mentoring small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) business owners, accredited by the International Labour Organization as a trainer for Start- and Improve- Your Business (SYB & IYB) programs. She has served as the deputy chief executive officer of CONSULTUS, based in Amman, Jordan, the general manager for Microfund for Women, and as the operations manager of the Jordanian Women’s Development Society (JWDS).

Suaad Allami
Founder and Chair, Women for Progress Center, Iraq

Suaad Allami opened and operates the first all female legal clinic in Iraq, supervised five comprehensive women’s centers throughout Baghdad, and executed the first continuing education conference for women lawyers in Baghdad. She is a former member of the Baghdad Provincial Council and Sadr City District Council (2004-2009), and she authored the by-laws for the District and Sub-District Councils of Baghdad Province. She has earned numerous honors, including the International Women of Courage Award in 2009.

Donna Langley
Chairman, Universal Pictures
Mentoring Fatima J. Al-Mohannadi

Donna Langley works alongside Universal Chairman Adam Fogelson on all aspects of Universal’s business and production strategy. She oversees feature film production, worldwide acquisitions, Focus Features, and the studio’s relationship with the largest international production company, Working Title. Donna joined Universal in 2001 and rose through the production ranks to president of production before her promotion to co-chairman in 2009. During her tenure, Donna has been a driving force behind several of the studio’s Academy Award®-winning films.

Fatima J. Al-Mohannadi
Corporate Planning Analyst, Qatargas

Fatima is an analyst at Qatargas, the largest producer of liquefied natural gas in the world. She is a social entrepreneur and environmentalist, and was nominated and selected as the only Qatari delegate to attend the One Young World Summit in South Africa in October 2013. The experience reinforced a longtime commitment to underserved and underrepresented communities, especially women. She teaches digital literacy to women and believes that there are pathways for pursuing career goals without compromising traditional Qatari values and culture.

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