50 Over 50: Europe, Middle East And Africa 2023 – Forbes


By Maggie McGrath
With reporting by Igor Bosilkovski, Emmy Lucas and Olivia Peluso; additional editing by Caroline Howard
Mumzworld; BACKGROUND IMAGE by Linda Lyon/Getty Images
Established in 2011 by CEO Ataya and CCO Leena Khalil, Mumzworld is the largest online marketplace for mothers in the Middle East. Ataya, a Palestinian-Kuwaiti entrepreneur, stands out in a region dominated by family businesses and a sector ruled by Amazon and Noon. Mumzworld counts 2.5 million users across the region, with its site selling more than 250,000 products for parents and children. The Dubai-based company had raised a reported $50 million before Saudi Arabia’s Tamer Group acquired a majority stake in 2021. Before settling in the Emirates, Ataya worked in brand management at Procter & Gamble in Ohio and for Johnson & Johnson in Switzerland. With her brother Rabea, she later cofounded one of the Middle East’s most popular job-search sites, Bayt.com, before leaving the company to start Mumzworld. She is an eTrade for Women Advocate for the UN Trade Agency, UNCTAD.
Daughter of the late Portuguese “King of Cork” Americo Amorim, who made his fortune in the cork industry and later diversified his business, Amorim sits atop one of Portugal’s largest legacy empires. The bulk of the fortune that she shares with her mother and two sisters stems from energy corporation Galp Energia, where Amorim serves as chair of the board, and which generated nearly $20 billion in revenue in 2021. Last year the family sold the 10% they owned in Tom Ford, when the brand was acquired by Estée Lauder.
Appelbaum leads De Morgenzon Estate, a wine farm and agricultural business in Stellenbosch, a gem in South Africa’s Cape wine country. Aside from running the business, Applebaum is busy with various philanthropic projects, particularly in health, education and alleviating poverty rights through her involvement as a trustee of the Helen Suzman Foundation, Synergos Institute and Harvard University’s Women’s Leadership Board. She once told Forbes: “There is nothing, aside from perhaps hard physical labor, that women can’t do as well as men. Many women just haven’t had opportunities.”
In a world notoriously inaccessible to women, the Vatican hierarchy, Becquart has risen through previously unimaginable ranks. In early 2021, Pope Francis appointed the French Catholic religious sister an Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, granting her the right to vote in the Catholic Synod of Bishops—the first woman to do so since it was founded in 1965. Before devoting her life to God, Becquart, a member of the institute of religious sisters Congregation of Xavières, studied management at one of France’s most prestigious universities, HEC Paris. Later she graduated with a degree in theology from Centre Sèvres and was the first woman to serve as the Director of the National Service for Youth Evangelization and Vocations.
MEHMET TURGUT
One of Turkey’s preeminent restaurant entrepreneurs, Cizreli runs BigChefs, which operates 69 restaurants in 12 cities of Turkey, 3 cities in Dubai, and is also present in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kuwait. Cizreli previously ran various food hospitality enterprises, including coffee shop business Cafemiz; Kuki House, a pastry and bakery venture; and Quick China, a Far East cuisine enterprise. She went through a divorce in 2005 and started over. Taking a bank loan, she founded BigChefs Cafe & Brasserie in 2007, and today the business employs over 3,500 workers. Cirelli, who boasts over 130,000 Instagram followers, sits on the boards of Kagider, the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey and the Turkish Restaurant & Entertainment Association.
Founder and managing partner at venture capital fund Experior Venture Fund, a Poland-based early- and growth-stage venture capital firm with 18 investments, Marzena Bielecka oversees the fund’s operations from deal sourcing to the investment process. She’s also a founding member of the European Women in Venture Capital, a community of senior, female VC investors.
When Botin’s father died suddenly in 2014, she became one of the most powerful women in finance virtually overnight: She was named his successor as the head of Banco Santander, which her family has run since 1934. Tasked with increasing the bank’s profitability and expanding into new markets, Botin has risen to the challenge. She acquired the failing Banco Popular in 2017 to make Santander the largest bank in Spain, and today, Santander serves more than 140 million customers across Europe and the Americas.
As the founder and managing partner of Seed Capital Denmark, Brockenhuus-Schack runs one of the most successful seed-stage investors in Denmark. The firm has stakes in tech companies like Trustpilot, Lunar and Vivino. Earlier in her career, Brockenhuus-Schack worked as an associate for McKinsey and as a director of business development for Danish film studio Nordisk film, where she was responsible for establishing the animation business and for investments in game developers such as IO Interactive (the creators of the Hitman franchise).
Alex Severn/Bet365
Twenty years before online gambling became a $65 billion global business, Coates spied an opportunity. An econometrics major who worked for her father’s betting shop while still in school, Coates started Bet365 in 2000 with just 12 employees. Today, Coates is not just a billionaire—worth more than $5 billion thanks to her stake in her company, which says it has 80 million customers around the world—but she is also among the world’s highest-paid executives, logging some $317 million in compensation last year. Coates was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2012 for services to the community and business.
Rome, Italy-based Lucia Calvosa took her corporate and bankruptcy law expertise as a lawyer to the board of directors at Eni in 2020. One of the largest multinational oil companies in the world, Eni most recently launched a €1 billion pledge toward sustainability goals such as reducing greenhouse emissions and its carbon footprint. Calvosa also teaches commercial law at the University of Pisa.
Couderc, who began her career as a lawyer with the Paris Bar, is chair of the board of Air France-KLM, a Franco-Dutch airline holding company. She is responsible for a fleet of some 500 aircraft and over €14.3 billion in revenue for 2021. Before stepping up to the helm of leading one of Europe’s largest airlines, Couderc had an impressive political career, including Deputy of the French National Assembly, Secretary of State to the Prime Minister and Minister for Employment and Social Affairs.
Coughlan is an Irish venture capitalist and a cofounder and managing partner of Atlantic Bridge Capital, which helps companies in the technology sector enter global markets with over €1 billion of assets under management across eight funds. She is also the cofounder of Summit Bridge Capital, which is aimed at helping technology companies with a presence in Ireland scale in China. It’s backed by China Investment Corp., the world’s fourth-largest sovereign investor, along with Ireland’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. Prior to founding Atlantic Bridge, she was founder and director of Glonav, a GPS company that NXP acquired for $110 million. She also served as CFO and vice president of Finance for three Nasdaq IPOs: Parthus, IONA and Smartforce.
The Palestinian-Jordanian chef opened Bait Maryam restaurant in Dubai in 2017. The former school owner and cooking teacher turned renowned chef serves authentic Levantine recipes from eastern Mediterranean countries passed on from her mother, after whom the restaurant was named. Dakkak moved to Saudi Arabia as a young woman, where she started her family. Upon settling in the UAE, Dakkak acted on her dream of owning a restaurant. She was cited in the Bib Gourmand category in the 2022 Michelin Guide and named Middle East and North Africa’s Best Female Chef 2023 by the food and beverage World’s 50 Best group.
The acclaimed Zimbabwean author, writer and filmmaker has had a roller-coaster few years: On the literary front, her third novel, This Mournable Body (part of the Tambudzai trilogy that began with the famed Nervous Conditions from 1988), was published in 2020 to rave reviews and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. On the civil rights end, last September she was found guilty of promoting public violence and was handed a $120 fine and a six-month suspended jail sentence for holding a placard that said, “We want better. Reform our institutions!” in a largely peaceful anti-government protest in 2020. Dangarembga is the founding director of the Harare-based Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa Trust.
A designer and artist who learned the art of Adire textiles (indigo-dyed cloth) from her great-grandmother, Davis-Okundaye is the chief executive of the Nike Art Gallery in Lagos and also manages galleries in Abuja, Kogi and Osun. Her work, which has been permanently displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and a part of the British Library’s West Africa exhibition, has made her a superstar in her native Nigeria. She’s passing on her Adire knowledge to the next generation, too: She reports she’s taught 4,000 women to earn their own livelihoods through weaving.
Carvalho-Heineken is one of the wealthiest women in the world, thanks to her 23% stake in beer giant Heineken ($23.4 billion market value in 2022). Forbes estimates her net worth to be $13.8 billion. She inherited the Heineken stake in 2002 from her late father, longtime CEO Freddy Heineken. At the time, Carvalho-Heineken was a Heineken board member and mother of five. Along with her stake in the company came voting control, meaning that her single vote could outweigh the votes of other investors on any board matter.
Born Jacqueline Yu to a Chinese father and British mother, de Rojas’ first career ambitions were that of BBC newsreader. But a degree in European Business Studies led to a series of jobs for the region’s blue-chip tech companies, and today, she is one of the most influential women in tech in the U.K. She chairs the board of professional network Digital Leaders and also sits on the board for U.K. technology industry association techUK. De Rojas, who was the first in her family to attend college, was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for Services to International Trade in Technology in the Queen’s New Year Honors list 2018.
Dutch architect Nathalie de Vries puts the “DV” in Rotterdam-based design firm MVRDV. A founding partner of the firm, De Vries has designed everything from three Dutch national monuments to co-working spaces and hotels to the unique, multi-use Baltyk Tower in Poland—one of the many major projects she’s completed after turning 50. Her urban designs focus on sustainability and innovation and have won awards such as the Amsterdamprijs and architecture’s prominent Architizer A+ Award.
As a founder, CEO and managing partner of Emerald Ventures, Domanig spearheads a VC firm with assets of over €1 billion and offices in Zurich, Toronto and Singapore. When Domanig founded Emerald in 2000, it was the first cleantech venture capital firm in Europe; today, it continues to invest in companies producing sustainable technologies across agriculture, energy, industrial IT and beyond. Before founding her own firm, Domanig ran mergers and acquisitions for Swiss machine manufacturer Sulzer.
In 2021, Drach-Temam was promoted from vice president of research, innovation and open science at Sorbonne University to president of the renowned Paris university. She is the first female president since its founding in 1257. A mathematician by training, Drach-Temam had been a computer science professor and worked her way up the ranks of higher education. Before joining the Sorbonne, she was a vice president at Pierre and Marie Curie University, and her research interests centered around digital systems and the designs of processors.
The French octogenarian had a year to remember in 2022, winning the Nobel Prize for literature in October. The Nobel Prize jury said that it granted the award to Ernaux, who began her literary career in the 1970s, “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.” Best known for her works The Year and Happening (the latter of which was adapted into a film that won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2021), Ernaux is the first Frenchwoman to win the Nobel for literature.
Egyptian jewelry designer Azza Fahmy founded her brand in 1969 after becoming the first woman in Egypt to study jewelry making with the master craftsmen at Khan El Khalili, Cairo’s famous artisan market. In 2002, at 57, she opened her first factory, and seven years later, she opened her brand’s first boutique at the Four Seasons Hotel in Jordan. Today, Azza Fahmy Jewellery is one of the most renowned luxury jewelry brands in the Middle East, and her work has been worn by stars like Rihanna, Kerry Washington and Naomi Campbell. Most recently, her label collaborated with Balmain.
A particle physicist who originally wanted to be a geologist—Gianotti was transfixed by Sicily’s active volcano, Mount Etna, as a kid—Gianotti became the first woman to run CERN, Europe’s major nuclear research institute, in 2016. Three years later, she was renewed for a second term, which began in 2021. Throughout her career, she has authored or coauthored more than 500 publications in peer-reviewed journals and has served on a number of scientific councils, including the UN Secretary-General’s advisory board.
With a Ph.D. in pharmacology, Graeser began her journey as an intellectual property (IP) professional as a postdoc at the Human Genome Project as a programmer. She founded sister companies KISSPatent in 2014 and KISSPlatform in 2019 to help entrepreneurs and startups manage and protect their IP. Graeser has since supported more than 1,000 patent applications in over 15 industries. Her client roster ranges from first-time solo entrepreneurs to large corporations with robust IP portfolios.
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The iconic Italian actress, over the course of a six-decade career, rose above her poverty-stricken origins in postwar Naples and became a universally recognized film star. Loren has received dozens of awards, including a lifetime achievement Oscar and a career Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival. The legendary actress is also a cookbook author, including In Cucina Con Amore. Last year, she opened a second Sophia Loren Restaurant in Milan—“In my life, I have had many passions; one of them is undoubtedly food.” Her first eponymous eatery opened in Florence in 2021.
Hayat was appointed CEO and chair of AMMC, Morocco’s Capital Market Authority by King Mohammed VI in 2016. A graduate of ESSEC Business School Paris, she worked on capital markets for several banks in Spain before heading back to Morocco to join Société Générale Maroc and Société Générale Marocaine de Banques, among others, administer the Casablanca Stock Exchange and serve as the first woman on the board of director of a bank in her home country. She is fluent in Arabic, French, Spanish and English and vocal in all four about more decisionmaking roles for women in her country’s economy.
Polish director Agnieszka Holland has written and worked on films such as Oscar-nominated Angry Harvest, In Darkness and Europa, Europa. In 2014, she became chairwoman of the board for the European Film Academy and was elected president in 2021. The acclaimed director’s works highlight political issues and human rights. Her latest feature-length venture, The Green Border, follows the story of a family of Syrian refugees.
In 2018, when she was 56, Horáková created the Czech Republic’s first social impact fund by cofounding Tilia Impact Ventures, a venture firm looking for early-stage startups that are as scalable as they are socially minded. She is also the co-owner of Albatross Media, a Czech publishing house producing 1,500 children’s book titles yearly. Before starting Tilia and getting involved with Albatross, Horáková worked in private equity and was the CEO of the Czech Private Equity and Venture Capital Association from 2012 to 2017.
The daughter of a Nigerian veterinarian and British nurse, Mohammed began her career in Nigeria’s private sector, working for architects designing schools and healthcare buildings. She eventually moved to the public sector, working for three different Nigerian presidents before becoming an advisor to former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012. Five years later, under António Guterres, Mohammed was named the UN’s deputy secretary-general.
The native Rwandan is the CEO of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an African alliance that puts smallholder farmers at the center of the continent’s growing economy. Growing up in a refugee camp in Uganda after her family was displaced, Kalibata now leads the Kenya-based organization that has impacted over 26 million people and aims to transform Africa’s smallholder farming from a solitary struggle to survive to businesses that thrive. Kalibata, who holds a Ph.D. in entomology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, previously served as Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources for Rwanda until 2014.
The Lebanese singer, songwriter and producer known for blending traditional and contemporary Arabic music holds a mythical status in her native country. Karam, referred to as the “Shining Sun of Arabic Music,” has sold over 60 million records and is a regular judge on the TV show Arabs Got Talent. The Maloun Abou L Echeq singer boasts an impressive social media following: Nearly 40 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She was named to Forbes Middle East’s Arab Music Stars 2021 list of 50 of MENA’s most streamed and followed active musicians.
Luhabe has dedicated her career to the economic empowerment of women in South Africa. She cofounded Wiphold—the country’s first women-owned and women-focused investment platform—in 1994. From 2016 to 2018, she held the distinction of being the only woman to sit on the World Rugby Executive Committee. Today, she continues to sit on a number of boards for organizations dedicated to economic advancement, including The African Leadership University.
Securico
The founder and managing director of Securico, a security services and systems company in Zimbabwe, Ndhlukuka is a tour de force in an industry where women, especially in high positions, are few and far between. A top performer at a local insurance company early in her career, Ndlukuka once sold an 8-ton truck (which she had earned by selling and reselling her clothes) to save her family farm. She moved into the Zimbabwean security industry in the 1990s, starting her own venture in 1998 with just 4 other people. Today, Securico employs 4,000 people, of which 900 are women.
A British dame who has been acting since her early 20s, Mirren’s stardom has reached new heights for her work after 50: In 2007, at 61, she won an Academy Award for best actress for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. Today, she is the only entertainer to have won the “Triple Crown of Acting,” meaning she has earned an Oscar, Emmy and Tony in the U.S. and their U.K equivalents. Her biopic Golda is set to be showcased at the Berlin Film Festival this year.
Mitchell is the founder and CEO of Life Scientific, a company specializing in developing generic, “off-patent” crop protection products. It started in a room on the University College Dublin campus and offered R&D services for big clients. Eventually, Mitchell decided to pivot the business to manufacture their own lower-cost crop protection solutions–the company now has a portfolio of 62 registered products sold in five countries and achieved 50% revenue growth year over year in 2022. She left University Cork College with a master’s in chemistry and took up a role with a generic agrochemicals manufacturer, where she spent ten years learning the industry.
The wife of billionaire Patrice Motsepe, Moloi-Motsepe has made a name for herself in the world of education, fashion and philanthropy. She spearheads African Fashion International, a fashion platform to support African clothing enterprises and promote African textile and accessories culture. She has served as chancellor of the University of Cape Town since 2020. Along with her husband, Moloi-Motsepe cofounded the Motsepe Foundation in 1999, and in 2013 they became the first couple from Africa to join The Giving Pledge.
Sadik, an experienced Jordanian businesswoman, has been CEO of Arab Bank since February 2022. Arab Bank is one of the largest global Arab banking networks, with over 600 branches spanning five continents. It recorded $63.8 billion in assets in 2021. Sadik has more than 36 years of experience in banking, including 24 years at the National Bank of Kuwait, where she held various roles, including general manager of the international banking group. She holds an M.B.A. from American University in Beirut.
Zlatolina Mukova became a managing partner at New Vision 3 Fund, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage tech-enabled companies, in 2019. Mukova invests in the fintech, e-commerce and biotechnology space. An investment expert with a blend of private and public sector experience—earlier in her career Mukova worked for the Bulgarian government as the deputy minister of transport and telecommunications, where she managed the division’s financial operations—Mukova has become a power player in the Bulgarian startup ecosystem.
An ophthalmologist who has performed sight-restoring surgeries to 35,000 Namibians at no cost, Dr. Helena Ndume has devoted her career to treating patients with blindness and low vision in the developing world. Her humanitarian work was inspired by her experience as a child refugee; at 15, she fled Namibia and lived in refugee camps in Angola and Zambia. Today, Ndume serves as the Head of Ophthalmology at Windhoek Hospital, a government hospital in Namibia’s capital. She also partners with international organizations—including the U.S.’ Dikembe Mutombo Foundation—to organize annual eye camps to treat patients ages 4 to 90-plus.
In 2019, at 50, Nold was elected as chair of the board of Migros, Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain. With nearly 30 billion Swiss francs in revenue for 2021 ($32 billion) and nearly 100,000 employees, the company is also the largest private employer in one of Europe’s wealthiest countries. Before entering the world of business, Nold taught at various levels at Berne elementary schools for ten years and was a head teacher for three years. Up until last 2022, she served as a lecturer at the institute for further education and media education at the University of Teacher Education in Bern.
Akio Kon/Bloomberg
In 2015, the year she turned 50, Oteh was tapped to serve as the treasurer of the World Bank, a role that put her atop a division with $200 billion in assets. She held the position until 2018 and currently serves as an executive in residence at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. In 2021, Oteh was named the chair of the Royal African Society, a British nonprofit that sits under the patronage of Prince William.
A knight of the French National Order of Merit, Sophie Paturle Guesnerot’s roots are in private equity. She is the founding partner of Demeter Investment Managers, a €1 billion AUM firm focused on investing in companies with clean energy technologies at their core. Demeter has invested in 200 companies over the last 17 years. Prominent within France’s private equity space—before founding Demeter, Guesnerot worked at Crédit du Nord and Société Générale—she also founded AFIC avec Elles, a group aimed at promoting women in private equity.
Ratner heads Research & Development for Vayyar, an Israeli-based semiconductor leader in 4-D imaging radar sensors for the automotive, senior care, cancer screening and smart retail sectors. The company has received $300 million in funding and operates in 71 countries. Before cofounding Vayyar, Ratner served as a senior consultant for various tech companies, including Intel, Visonic and Siklu. A mathematics and computer science graduate from Bar-Ilan University, Ratner joined BreezeCom (also known as Alvarion) at its seed stage, where she managed the R&D Wireless Access Department throughout the company’s IPO.
The Moroccan Ph.D. in economics, journalist and politician was elected as the first-ever female mayor of Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, in September 2021. Last October, she was elected treasurer of the United Cities and Local Governments organization. Prior to becoming Rabat’s mayor, Rhlalou worked for the Moroccan Parliament, and before that, she worked as the economics bureau editor of the Moroccan daily newspaper l’Opinion.
At the helm of Bucharest-based investment platform SeedBlink, Carmen Sebe is responsible for helping tech startups who come to SeedBlink reach the next stage of their development—whether that’s securing Series A funding or securing an exit. With the goal of consolidating investments in Europe, SeedBlink acquired crowd-investing platform Symbid in fall 2022—combining some 62,000 individual investors into one joint network. The two platforms have reportedly invested over €110 million in 250 startups.
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The first female president of Slovenia, Pirc Musar took office in December 2022 after running as an independent candidate. A former journalist for Slovenian national television, Pirc Musar is internationally known for high-profile work at her eponymous law firm, including representing fellow Slovene Melania Trump in copyright and other cases. A freedom of information expert, Pirc Musar successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis, “How to Strike the Right Balance Between Access to Public Information and Personal Data Protection,” in 2015 at the Law Faculty in Vienna. Before running for president, Pirc Musar worked as Information Commissioner and was the president of the Slovenian Red Cross.
Tetteroo serves as chair of the Executive Board of Dutch company Achmea, a $96 billion (assets) insurance company in the Netherlands. Tetteroo first joined Achmea in 2009, where she directed one of the company’s pension administrators. She worked her way up the ranks, taking charge of Achmea’s pension and life division in 2012 before becoming board chair in 2020. Before coming to Achmea, Tetteroo worked as auditor at Mazars and director at Fortis Insurance.
The 2022 winner of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award, Russian journalist Timchenko is publisher and executive editor of Meduza, a Russian-language news website. In March 2014, she was suddenly fired as editor in chief of Lenta.ru, an independent news website in Russia, and replaced with a Putin supporter, after which nearly half of the staffers resigned. The same year, Timchenko fled to Latvia, where she and fellow exiled Russian journalists founded Meduza. Although labeled as a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities in 2021, Meduza continues to report on Russia, including its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Tordjman founded Jeito Capital, a Paris-based private equity firm focused on biotech and biopharma companies, in 2018. The company closed a $630 million fund in September 2021, and last November placed its first bet on a U.S.-based biotech, indicating Tordjman’s post-50 ambition to expand her firm’s global portfolio. A Ph.D. in molecular biology and immunology, she was a physician and researcher specializing in hemato-oncology before switching to investing. She worked for over 15 years at Sofinnova Partners with 1.5 billion euro assets under management. She is also the founder and chairwoman of Women Innovating Together in Healthcare, an organization dedicated to engaging more women in the life sciences industry.
Gulden Turktan is on a mission to support economic growth and gender-inclusive business for all G20 countries. As founding chair of W20-Women 20, the women-focused outreach group of G20, Turktan regularly speaks on public policy issues related to women and regulations. The Istanbul-based policy leader also helped create FEM, an equal opportunity program for women in the workplace.
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