Great Women In Business: Lubna Suliman Olayan

Lubna Suliman Olayan

Great Woman In Business

Business Ace with Philanthropic Approach 

Lubna Suliman Olayan (born August 4, 1955) is a Saudi business woman, known around the world for her business acumen. She is the chief executive of the Olayan Financing Company, and oversees the workings of more than three dozen companies with operations both inside and outside the kingdom. Her company The Olayan Group is a private multinational enterprise engaged in distribution, manufacturing, services and investments. OFC operates or actively participates in more than 40 companies, often in partnership with leading multinationals. OFC is also one of the largest investors in the Saudi and regional stock markets.

But Olayan, selected by Time magazine in 2005 as one of its top 100 most influential people, has a side to her that goes beyond business. When she is not running companies, she empowers communities by working with and supporting nongovernmental organizations. She believes that grass-roots organizations can touch on social issues, taboo issues, in ways that are impossible for businesses to do. In this respect, she is a role model for women in her country to break the barriers of discrimination and exhibit their potential in a world dominated by the men. As an advisory member of the board of Effat University, an educational institution for women in Saudi Arabia, she especially understands the meaning of education to women in her country.  

To raise the number of female professionals, who currently make up only 6 percent of the Saudi workforce, she established the Olayan National Women’s Action for Recruitment and Development (ONWARD) in 2004.


  • In 2004, Ms. Olayan was the first woman in Saudi history to deliver an opening keynote address at a major conference in Saudi Arabia; at the Jeddah Economic Forum.

  • In February 2005, Olayan was appointed as a non-executive director to the Board of WPP, and in December 2004, was elected to sit on the Board of the Saudi Hollandi Bank, a publicly listed company in Saudi Arabia.

  • In September 2006 and April 2007, she joined the International Advisory Boards of Rolls-Royce and Citigroup, respectively. Olayan also served on the Board of Chelsfield plc, the UK property developer, from 1996 to 2004.

  • She is a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, and the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations, which she joined in November and December of 2005 respectively.

  • In 2010, she was awarded the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year. As of 2014, she is listed as the 86th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.