When Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, MVC BA ’99, enrolled in Mount Vernon’s Women’s College, she realized the unique education opportunity she would have.
And when the George Washington University merged with the college, Princess Reema took advantage of a broader offering of courses—in museum studies, Islamic art, and architecture—at GW, along with a consortium of DC-based schools, to build a personalized curriculum of study.
Her education helped her to become one of the most powerful Arab women in business and a vocal leader supporting women’s economic participation in society. On May 15, as part of the GW Global Series, Princess Reema served as the inaugural guest speaker for the event series in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Her address focused on opportunities to integrate women into the workforce.
“By identifying what I wanted to study, arranging my own curriculum, wading through all the necessary channels to make it happen—that helped me in business as I learned how to figure out what I wanted and to go after it,” said Princess Reema.
And go after it, she did. Princess Reema, former chief executive officer of Harvey Nichols in Riyadh, a luxury retailer in Saudi Arabia, and current board member of Alfa International, is now a globally recognized innovator and pioneer in advancing women at work.
“By enabling women to enter the workforce, we not only contribute to the economic success of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East as a whole, but we also encourage women to become more independent by interacting in society and the world around them,” Princess Reema said.
Princess Reema addressed an audience of more than 80 GW alumni and friends in Dubai, including alumni from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Turkey and Pakistan. Princess Reema referenced her past experience as the chief executive officer of both Harvey Nichols in Riyadh and the retail company, Al Hama, which managed the Donna Karen and DKNY brands in the Middle East, as well as her most recent endeavor—the creation of Baraboux, a new brand of luxury handbags.
She elaborated on the benefits to employers that enable women’s desire to contribute to society and participate in the workforce, as well as opportunities for voluntary organizations to support the workforce development of women.
“Women are beginning to see other women in roles that just one generation ago they were not accustomed to seeing women in. That is very important—to see yourself in leadership roles and executive positions and to know that it’s possible for a woman to be successful,” Princess Reema said.
Princess Reema’s speaking engagement at the Four Seasons Dubai follows similar GW Global Series events for U.K.-based alumni in London earlier this year. The GW Global Series provides an opportunity for alumni who are thought leaders in their fields to share their insights and experiences with top executives and professionals.
“This has been an exceptional opportunity to come together with fellow alumni and to spend time with Her Royal Highness Princess Reema whose important work on women’s issues has the potential to improve the lives of women in every Gulf country,” said Zeb Eckert, SMPA BA ’03, the moderator for the evening who works for Bloomberg Television Hong Kong. “She is a wonderful example of the impact GW alumni can have in their communities around the world using the knowledge and relationships built in Washington, D.C. through an education at GW.”
The George Washington University’s International Advancement Team prepared this story. View photos from this event on the GW Alumni in the Middle East and North Africa Facebook page.