02/17/2017, 17.36
SAUDI ARABIA

First woman to head Saudi stock exchange

NCB Capital Co. CEO Sarah Al Suhaimi gets to run the Mideast’s largest bourse. For Saudi women, thanks to their foreign education, the financial sector provides greater space for their social and professional development.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – NCB Capital Co. Chief Executive Officer Sarah Al Suhaimi was appointed the first woman to chair Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, a prestige position in the ultraconservative Wahhabi kingdom.

This is a significant step in a country in which women are not allowed to drive, leave the house and the country unless accompanied by a male relative, or even receive medical treatment without the permission of a male relative.

The Board of Directors of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), whose members include representatives of the Central Bank and the Ministries of Finance and Trade, chose Sarah Al Suhaimi (pictured) to head the region’s largest bourse.

This is the first time that a woman, albeit one of the most authoritative and well-known in the world of finance and banking, is called to lead such an important public institution in Saudi Arabia.

Al Suhaimi was the first female head of a Saudi investment bank when she was named CEO of the NCB Capital Co. in 2014.

In Saudi Arabia, women are relegated to the margins of society. Only in recent years, they have gained the right to vote and stand for office in municipal elections.

However, they have gained, albeit slowly, some greater room in the financial sector thanks to government assistance, such scholarships to study abroad.

Sarah Al Suhaimi will lead the main stock exchange in the Arab world, at a crucial time for this institution when Saudi Arabia is on course to join MSCI Inc.'s emerging-markets index.

Her appointment represents a small but significant step in much-hoped change in attitude in Arab societies, especially in Saudi Arabia, towards women, according to many the true "pillar" against Islamic fundamentalism.

Last September, thousands of Saudi women signed a petition calling for an end of the male protection.

In 2011, the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz gave women to right to vote and run for office in municipal elections, the first of which were held in 2015. This followed a protest on social media in which women asked for this right.

The king also granted women the right to stay in hotels without a letter from their husband, making it easier for them to travel on business.

He also appointed the first female deputy minister, inaugurated the first mixed university, and reserved sales jobs in women’s apparel and perfume stores to women.

King Salman, who succeeded Abdullah in January 2015, has maintained his stepbrother’s reforms.

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