Woman to head a bank in Saudi Arabia for the first time

Lubna Olayan at the Davos World Forum

Lubna Olayan at the Davos World Forum

  |  D.R.

SABB First, a new Saudi bank, became the country's first financial organization to be headed by a woman; Lubna Olayan is now the chairwoman of the bank's board of directors.

The bank was born from the merger between Saudi British Bank (SABB) and Alawwal First Bank (formerly Saudi Hollandi Bank), of whose board of directors Lubna Olayan became a member in 2005, the organization said in a statement.

Voted by Forbes magazine as one of the most influential women in the Middle East, Olayan worked in the US banking sector in the 1980s before returning to her home country to join Olayan, a financial company founded by her father in 1947.

The Saudi Government has been implementing several reforms since the appointment of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017. Such reforms have been showcased as changes in the country's ultraconservative society.

One of the most iconic measures was the end of the ban on women drivers last June.

However, human rights organizations claim that the situation of women's rights activists has deteriorated considerably.

In August, the Public Prosecutor's Office sought the death penalty for Israa al Ghomgham, a Shiite activist detained since 2015. Ms Ghomgham is believed to be the first women's rights activist to face the death penalty.

Confirming criticisms from several NGOs, the government detained several activists who fought for women's right to drive just a few weeks after the end of the ban on women drivers.