The final 10 - the last of our fabulous 40 over Forty list is here - more powerhouse females covering business, fashion, design, architecture, music, education, leadership, luxury, flowers and more. A diverse set of formidable ladies truly making their mark on the Emirates and beyond…
1. Donna Benton
Founder & CEO, The Benton Group.
Donna’s spirit of adventure brought her from Australia to Dubai in 2000. Barely a year later she identified a market need for providing consumers with dining incentives, and enabling restaurants to reach new customers. The Entertainer filled this gap by providing “buy one get one free” offers to the best restaurants, cafes, night spots and attractions. Word of mouth drove strong book sales and Donna grew the business into different countries using the same model, while also expanding the ‘Entertainer’ product line to include spas, beauty and hotel accommodation.
Consequently, the award-winning Entertainer App was launched in 2013, and transitioned from a print publication to a data-driven technology firm. Under her leadership the ENTERTAINER contributed US$1.3 billion to the economy and experienced 25 to 30 per cent profit growth each year.
Donna then established The Benton Group, an international holding company that consolidates several businesses. Headquartered in Dubai, The Benton Group is a fast paced, dynamic organisation that focuses on establishing new companies and investing in businesses with the potential to scale. It identifies global trends and business opportunities, with a strong emphasis on innovation, data commercialisation, consumer behavior and corporate social responsibility.
Donna is an advocate of female empowerment via many public appearances worldwide, emphasising her success principles of achieving anything you want through hard work, an optimistic approach and most importantly having fun.
2. Payal Mirchandani
Founder & CEO, PINCA.
Payal was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to Indian parents, studied in London, England, worked in Toronto, Canada, and is now Dubai based alongside her husband, two children and pets.
PINCA, launched in 2015, as a distribution company specialising in children’s products and toys and supplies to retailers across the MENA Region and now represents an impressive portfolio of globally recognised brands including Barbie, Pokémon, Disney, Warner Bros and more.
With Payal’s customer experience centric strategy, PINCA has quickly gained positive market share. Under Payal’s leadership, the company has penetrated the GCC to reach 350 retailers in under 5 years, and now develops and retails its own range of toy concepts.
Adding to the PINCA portfolio Payal has recently introduced hair and skincare and wellness brands and is dedicated to curating quality brands which enhance everyday wellness for children.
3. Natalia Shustova
Fashion Entrepreneur and Founder, Goshá.
Serial entrepreneur Natalia Shustova is no stranger to fashion loving, social media fans, as one of the original and most loved content creators on Instagram at @shoestova . With a prior career as a corporate and real estate partner at a private law firm in Dubai, in 2013 she turned her long-standing passion for fashion into shoestova.com, a blog documenting her stylish life. With a string of UAE based fashion and retail concepts under her belt, Belarus born Natalia has now ventured into floral design with the super successful launch of her flower studio, Goshá.
Launched in late 2020, while the company first came into prominence with its one-of-a-kind floral arrangements, Goshá has been making waves more recently for its work in making memorable events and experiences for a roster of clients that includes luxury fashion labels like Gucci, Cartier, and others. Goshá now has nearly 40 people working between its two studios, with the first one located in Dubai’s Al Quoz neighborhood, and the other at the Edition hotel in Abu Dhabi.
4. Summaya Dabbagh
Founder, Dabbagh Architects.
Sumaya Dabbagh is the founder of Dubai based Dabbagh Architects. She is a Saudi born architect educated in the UK with diverse experience in architecture, interior design, and project management spanning over 20 years.
Dabbagh began her career in London and Paris in the early 90’s. Her return to the Gulf region in 1993 was part of a quest to gain a deeper understanding of her own identity, a unique mix of influences and sensitivity towards both western and middle eastern cultures.
In 2002, after completing the award winning Childrens’ City Project while at Schuster Pechtold and Partners, Dabbagh started to carve her own path as an independent architect. Since then she has completed a diverse range of projects which include commercial offices, retail, residential, educational, as well as cultural projects.
Through her work in architecture and design in the Gulf region Dabbagh’s quest to bridge the cultural and gender gaps continues. She was an instrumental part of the team who set up the RIBA Gulf chapter in 2009 and is passionate about bringing more awareness to the region on the value of good design. She is currently the elected Chair for the RIBA Gulf Chapter. More recently, Dabbagh was in charge of the multi-award winning Mosque of the late Mohamed Abdulkhaliq Gargash in Al Quoz - one of the first mosques designed in the UAE by a female architect.
5. Jola Chudy
Communications Consultant, ASICS Frontrunner & Community Manager.
A popular and well respected former ‘Editor in Chief’ across the UAE’s top titles, Jola is now helping companies and leaders craft compelling business and brand stories. Having specialised in luxury and fashion, Jola now consults across a diverse portfolio that includes finance, technology, logistics and running.
After a career in media and journalism in the UAE since 2005, Jolas has since well documented her new found love for running and currently indulges her passion for all things running-related by managing a team of 42 ASICS ‘Frontrunner’ ambassadors across four markets.
Jola says; “Achieving my first sub-two hour half marathon in 2020 reminded me of a self I’d temporarily misplaced: energised, passionate, focused and tenacious. Running a gruelling 50km desert ultra-marathon in searing heat, I rediscovered the confidence I needed to quit my job and fulfil a long-held dream to start my own communications consultancy.
“Seeing big results from small, achievable steps has been an incredibly powerful lesson for me. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or anxious, I remind myself that almost nothing is as hard as that 49th kilometre running over sand dunes.”
Cultural Entrepreneur, Creative Director at Bil Arabi, Artist & Photographer
Nadine Kanso established Bil Arabi and created her first piece of jewelry, a ring named "noon," in 2006. She uses her background in graphic design and typography to create her pieces using Arabic calligraphy. Kanso has collaborated with Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Christofle, Bernardaud, Maserati, as well as Emirates Airlines. Kanso's designs have been seen on celebrities such as Zaha Hadid, Kim Kardashian, Youssra, Kylie Minogue, Lupe Fiasco, and Dita Von Teese.
Bil Arabi pieces are not only modern heirlooms but also a fresh view of Arabian design - formed from a stylised depiction of personal messages and using precious stones. The label is an extension of Nadine herself, a photographer who found her creative voice in her native Lebanon and then the UAE, documenting the realities that were far removed from typical media-hyped imagery of the region.
7. Liberty Jones
Head of PR at Van Cleef & Arpels
With a recent new appointment at Van Cleef & Arpels, Liberty Jones has built a successful luxury communications career whilst previously at Tiffany & Co and Charlotte Tilbury Beauty, and the Al Tayer group, now in her 10th year in Dubai.
Liberty is a poised public speaker and possesses extensive experience with presenting to large groups and serving as a brand ambassador. Recognised as a style influencer in both Washington D.C. and the GCC, Liberty was voted one of the region’s most stylish by Harper’s Bazaar Arabia magazine in 2014 and regularly quoted in press regarding fashion and style trends. ”I seek opportunities that afford me the chance to capitalize on my energy, experience and enthusiasm for luxury retail in the Middle East”
8. Omaira Al Farooq Al Olama
Founder, ALF Administration, Founder & Editor in Chief, Unfiltered DXB
Recently celebrated as one of HSBC’s ‘ 75 faces of the UAE’ campaign, Omaira Al Farooq Al Olama, is an Emirati Ted-Talk speaker and mother of three.
Omaira is the founder of ALF Administration, a company which specialises in developing and guiding the future of Emirati entrepreneurs, as well as helping widowed and divorced women get back into the workforce through life and career coaching.
Omaira originally studied in San Francisco with Bachelors in International Politics and a minor in Psychology. going on to do her Masters in Criminology and has over 10 years experience working as a Senior Office Services Executive at the Human Rights Commission in San Francisco Ca. and as Head of Marketing & Events Management (Techno Park) Nakheel Dubai.
Omaira is also the brains behind the eponymous Interiors by Omaira, which first launched five years ago. The Unfiltered DXB platform is Omaira’s newest media project and is launching soon.
9. Lisa Scott-Lee
Performing Arts School Owner and International recording artist - Steps.
As part of the internationally successful pop group ‘Steps’ for the past 25 years, Lisa Scott-Lee still enjoys performing at large scale arenas and festivals around the world, platinum selling singles, albums and more as one fifth of of everyone's favourite pop combo.
This is of course alongside her success, with husband Johnny Shentall, as Principals and founders at DPA - Dubai Performing Arts school founded by the pair in 2014. Now with over 600 pupils, DPA has a solid reputation as a brilliant training ground for the next generation of performers, including Welsh born Lisa and Johnny’s two children, daughter Star-Lily and son Jaden amongst them.
Lisa says "I have to flip between my Steps hat and principal hat, which can be really hard and stressful at times. I focus on the day-to-day running of the school and the business side of things, while Johnny is the creative director and main teacher."
Steps has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide since 1997 and the band released its sixth studio album, What The Future Holds in November last year.
10. Rana Nawas
Keynote Speaker, Strategic Advisor, ‘When Women Win’ Podcast Host.
Born in England to a Palestinian father and Lebanese mother, Rana took an Engineering degree at Oxford University. Rana’s corporate career took her from McKinsey to the Dubai Govt to GE Capital. Since 2011 Rana has led the charge in rewriting policies and helping women rise in their professional and personal lives.
Rana left the corporate world after 17 years to pursue her passion of helping women thrive. She does this via her podcast When Women Win, through keynote speeches and skill-building workshops, as an Advisor to the Ellevate Dubai board and as a Strategic Advisor to corporations on gender parity.
Rana has spoken in front of mixed audiences on diverse topics and has been labelled a “thought-provoking”, “fact-driven” and “inspiring” speaker. She advises multinational corporations on their inclusion strategies and works on When Women Win, the Middle East’s chart-topping podcast where female role models and boss ladies from around the world share their inspirational stories and practical tools they used to succeed. When Women Win is now listened to in 163 countries via all podcast platforms. You can also catch it on any Emirates Airlines flight through their ICE entertainment system.
Rana has been featured on CNN, in Vogue Arabia and various other media outlets, and her articles have been published in Forbes, Huffington Post, The Tempest and GQ Middle East.