Women in Business: Female leaders paving the way in 2023
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Women in Business: Female trailblazers paving the way for peers

Women in Business: Female trailblazers paving the way for peers

We shine the spotlight on trailblazers who are forging ahead in their successful careers, a inspiring others with their professionalism, spirit and skills

Gulf Business
Emirati Women's Day 2023

Fazeela Gopalani, head of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in the Middle East

As head of ACCA in the region, Gopalani is responsible for leading the operations in 11 countries and representing more than 20,000 students, affiliates and members across the region, who work in all sectors and all levels of business across the Middle East.

A resident of the UAE for more than 15 years, Gopalani has contributed her expertise to several of the country’s key government agendas in her capacity as a leader, supporting the advancement of accountancy professionals in the region. She is behind several ground-breaking industry initiatives.”

Read:ACCA Middle East’s Fazeela Gopalani on the association’s mandate and ‘Women in Finance’

“At ACCA, we launched the Women in Finance initiative to give women access to networks, resources, and information to help support and advance their careers. One of the speakers at our inaugural event in Dubai was Jazla Hamad, the first-ever female Emirati partner at Deloitte. She spoke very passionately about the importance of having a solid mentor, crediting her incredible career trajectory to having strong mentors. She was emphatic that every woman should have a mentor, I have mentors, and I also mentor in turn,” says Gopalani.


Dr Leila Hoteit, managing director and senior partner, Boston Consulting Group, Dubai

Dr Hoteit, managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), started displaying leadership qualities from a young age. Dr Hoteit, who is the global lead of the consulting firm’s education, employment and welfare sector, also holds extensive experience in social development and culture. She is a member of the Public Sector practice, with over two decades of strategy and operations experience.

A Lebanese national, Dr Hoteit holds a bachelor’s degree and a PhD from Imperial College London, as well as an MBA from INSEAD. Dr Hoteit was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2014.

A specialist in human capital topics, she also sits on the leadership team of BCG’s global Social Impact practice.

Benedetta Ghione, executive director, Art Dubai

Ghione is responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of the Middle East’s leading international art fair, Art Dubai. She joined the Art Dubai Group in 2015 and has more than 15 years of experience across a range of art businesses, including auction houses, commercial galleries, and large-scale events. Among her responsibilities are leading the company’s institutional and public engagement, guiding collaboration between public and private institutions, advocating for corporate support of the arts, and increasing community participation in art initiatives.

Ghione is the appointed government liaison and works with the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority on a number of strategic initiatives. This includes the Dubai Collection – the first institutional collection of modern and contemporary art for the city of Dubai, and the inaugural Dubai Public Art commission that is part of the emirate’s multi-year strategy that will develop and deliver several major public art commissions across the city.

Read: Interview: Benedetta Ghione, executive director, Art Dubai 

Ghione says, “I am proud to be a part of an inspiring movement that celebrates the power of creativity in our communities. At Art Dubai, we aim to develop sustainable cultural ecosystems – through a dedicated programme of activities designed to stimulate patronage, meaningful partnerships, and resource-merging between public and private entities – so that everyone is equipped with the tools needed to nurture creative mindsets. It’s humbling to know how art can bring people together from diverse backgrounds whilst also helping promote innovative thinking and cultivating creative spirits.”

Dr Dina A Al-Tayeb, owner and dental practitioner, Dentalia Clinics

Dr Al-Tayeb runs one of the largest chains of dental clinics in Saudi Arabia. She is also an assistant professor at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz University in the dentistry faculty (periodontal department).

Alongside her dentistry business, Dr Al-Tayeb is one of Saudi Arabia’s leading figureheads in sport, representing Saudi Arabia as an accomplished triathlete. Competing in triathlons since 2002, she was the first Saudi national to complete an Ironman distance race in 2005. She has completed 18 full Ironman races, 45 half-Ironman races, and over 100 races in 20 years. She was also the first Arab female and Saudi national to qualify and complete the world championship Ironman race in Kona, Hawaii in 2018, 2019, 2022.

A high-profile figure, Dr Al-Tayeb is also a brand ambassador for ASICS in the Middle East, a role that sees her actively encouraging others, especially young women in Saudi Arabia, to embrace the benefits of movement and ‘a sound mind in a sound body’.

A true trailblazer in sport, many of the women for whom she is a role model are taking up sports in earnest for the first time in generations, representing a seismic shift in opportunities for young women in the kingdom. More recently, Dr Al-Tayeb became an ambassador for Breitling in the Middle East.



Nila Pendarovski, hotel manager, Rove Expo 2020

Pendarovski was fascinated by hotels as a child. A process as simple as assigning rooms to guests enthralled her and laid the foundation for what has been a thriving career in the hospitality industry.

Born and raised in Germany, Pendarovski arrived in the Middle East in 2012 and joined Rove Hotels in 2016. She was appointed hotel manager for Rove Dubai Marina in 2018, before joining Rove Expo 2020, the only hotel inside Expo City Dubai.

Despite over three decades of experience across the hospitality space, Pendarovski’s passion for her work remains undiminished. She remains a strong role model for women in the hospitality industry.

A strong believer in sustainability, she has promoted several green initiatives to propel the brand to secure eco-certifications.

Dawn Ward, entrepreneur and founder of Arista International

Ward runs Arista International, a high-end interior design company, which recently completed the interior design of Britain’s most expensive private residence, a GPB250m mansion in Mayfair, and oversees projects, from luxurious international private residences to commercial properties such as hotels and restaurants, in Europe, Australia and the Middle East.

With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Ward, who lives in Dubai and whose company is currently working on several high-profile private client projects in the emirate, is an influential and respected figure in the world of design. Her work has been featured in international publications and TV shows.

“I am passionate about working closely with my clients to create one-of-a-kind interior spaces. Being granted personal access to some of the world’s most successful and discerning men and women is a privilege and my determination to help them express their values and style in their home has driven my business since inception,” says Ward, who also works closely with several charities and philanthropic organisations.

In addition to her work with Arista International, Ward is also a successful businesswoman and TV personality, and role model for women in the industry. She has appeared on a number of popular reality TV shows, including The Real Housewives of Cheshire, and is known for her entrepreneurial spirit and ability to balance her professional and personal life.

 Pratima Arora, chief product officer, Chainalysis

As a child, Arora began coding when she was in middle school. Through the art of creativity, she was able to continue to progress in this field. Over the course of her career, she has delivered strategic products that add value to customers at companies such as SAP, Salesforce and Atlassian. Her passion for solving difficult customer problems with intuitive solutions led her to manage Chainalysis’ R&D department.

Chainalysis is a blockchain analytics company that helps both public and private sector entities to safely interact with blockchain. Arora’s personal biggest achievements at the company include building a team of more than 200 technologists, who create new products every day and developing a vision and strategy to drive innovation.

Arora believes that embracing equity is critically important within the tech industry, and even more so within the Web3 space. “As women in Web3, we should lead the way in building diverse teams and driving equality of opportunity in the workplace. Not only because it will increase the amount of women in the industry, but because only by having women in Web3 will the promise of this technology be achieved.”

Arora’s piece of advice for other women is to have a ‘growth’ mindset. “Keep your mind open to learning and don’t let a fear of not knowing every answer discourage you from pursuing leadership.”

Read: Janey Young, head of Global Investigations at Chainalysis’ advice on combatting  cryptocurrency crime in the UAE

Claire Roper-Browning, regional director of Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions and Communications (MRAC) for Heriot-Watt University’s Dubai campus

Roper-Browning oversees the overall functioning of the MRAC team comprising approximately 50 people, and with satellite teams in India, Kazakhstan, and Nigeria. The Dubai campus attracts approximately 2,000 students across the MENA region annually. Prior to joining Heriot-Watt University Dubai, Roper-Browning led the Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions Department at Durham Business School in the UK.

Previously, she worked with the Guardian Media Group, where she managed relationships with national media agencies. She has also led marketing campaigns for major sponsors including Nike, Vodafone, and Ladbrokes during her role at Manchester United football club. When Heriot-Watt University Dubai posted a vacancy for a regional director to lead MRAC, she was attracted to the new challenge as she was to the ethos and values of the university. She relocated with her family almost five years ago and there has been no looking back. Since then, Roper-Browning has achieved much and contributed hugely to education in the UAE.

Roper-Browning provides strategic leadership and delivery across all areas of marketing, communications, and student recruitment and all levels of study including undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Her role spans the UAE as well as the broader MENA region, connecting prospective students with their preferred study destination across Heriot-Watt’s global campuses. She also works closely with schools in the UAE and internationally to engage students with a range of programmes offered by Heriot-Watt University that can help shape their future.

Read: Women in business: Breaking the bias at workplaces in 2022

Women enabling transformation

One of Roper-Browning’s biggest achievements is that she has been part of the core team responsible for the transformational change at the Dubai campus. In April 2021, Heriot-Watt University Dubai launched a brand new digitally enabled campus in the heart of the city. Located in Dubai Knowledge Park, the neighbourhood is home to more than 500 businesses and has established itself as a centre of excellence for higher education and professional development. Roper-Browning was instrumental in the launch and transition to the new facilities as she set up an Admissions and Recruitment team from scratch and led the recruitment of thousands of students.

Under her stewardship, Heriot-Watt University Dubai also became the first university in the region to light up the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa in 2019. The celebration was in support of the many milestones the Dubai campus has achieved.

As part of the university’s involvement in Expo 2020, Roper-Browning led project groups in charge of several Expo-themed activities. Notable amongst these was WATTXPO, the university’s tribute to Expo 2020. Inaugurated by Manal AlBayat, chief engagement officer, at Expo 2020, the entire campus was transformed into multiple pavilions, each hosting exciting activities and offering opportunities for prospective students to meet with academics, admissions, and student service staff.

She oversaw the university’s foray into new markets for prospective students such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan. Today, her team of Russian and Kazakh-speaking student recruitment officers plays a role in reaching out to students from these countries considering higher education in the UAE.

What Roper-Browning loves the most about Heriot-Watt University Dubai is that there is always something new to do and to learn. There is never a dull moment, not to mention the real impact she is making on students dreaming big and aiming to shape their future.

Also read: Why diverse teams drive innovation and success

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