A Saudi woman who has been willing to press for gender equality within the Arab nations last week won the 2004 achievement award given by the Arab Bankers Association of North America, a New York City-based nonprofit trade group that promotes Arab-American relations within the financial sectors. In her acceptance speech she spoke up for gender parity and called for a “true meritocracy” in the workplace.

In addition to promoting U.S.-Arab business relations, the recipient, Lubna Olayan, has championed equal opportunity in the workplace in Saudi Arabia, where her company, Olayan Financing Company, operates more than 40 Middle Eastern businesses engaged in product distribution, manufacturing, services and investment.

“Make no mistake,” she said in her speech. “I am neither a radical feminist nor a proponent of artificially putting women in positions. I am a proponent, though, of a system in which opportunities are, as you say here, ‘gender neutral’ and of a true meritocracy that sees the right person in the right position for the right reasons, regardless of gender.”

For more information:

Women’s eNews–
Saudi Calls for Equity; Grand Mufti Blasts Speech:

Women’s eNews–
Speech of Lubna S. Olayan to Arab Bankers:

Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran:

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Olayan was named one of Fortune magazine’s top 50 most powerful women outside the United States in early 2004.


The Iranian government is planning to stone to death a 13-year-old in the city of Mariyan in the coming days, reports the Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran, a Boston-based group that conducts research, outreach and awareness programs about the challenges faced by Iranian women.

According to the forum’s Oct. 14 press release, the teen, Jila Izadi, is accused of adultery, an offense punishable by death. However, the release alleges that Izadi was raped and impregnated by her brother and has been further victimized by the Iranian constitution, which offers women and girls little judicial protection or due process.

— Robin Hindery.