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Who are the 11 most influential women in Morocco?

11 inspirational women lead the charge as role models in Morocco. Here's how these visionaries are challenging gender roles by running the largest businesses in the kingdom.

A recent study by two major Moroccan government bodies reveals a distinct wage gap between women and men in the kingdom. Women still earn about 17% less than men across all sectors, and more often than not, many leave the workforce before they have a chance to progress.

The gender pay gap is a global phenomenon. According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Pay Gap Index, women’s average earnings are almost half that of men, and at this rate, it’ll take 170 years for economic equality.

On the positive side, the gap has been declining in Morocco. 11 inspirational women in particular lead the charge as role models for women in the kingdom. Read on to learn more about these visionaries, who have each challenged gender roles by running the largest businesses in Morocco.

Rachida Benabdallah

Rachida Benabdallah is the Director and CEO of AGMA Lahlou-Tazi.

Benabdallah was the first Moroccan woman to be awarded the Polytechnique prize and was director of RMA Watanya and the founder of the Centre Monétique Interbancaire (CMI). She currently sits on the board of directors of the AMMC (Moroccan Capital Market Authority).

Souad Benbachir

Board member and Partner at CFG Bank

After graduating from Essec in 1992, Souad Benbachir joined Goldman Sachs in London where she cut her teeth in financial services. In 1999, she launched Morocco’s first venture capital fund, Capital Investment, promoted by CFG Group. Since then, she has honed expertise in tourism and financial services. Benbachir has also worked closely with the government to develop Morocco’s thriving tourism sector. She has also advised a number of international companies, including Accor, Pierre & Vacances, Colony Capital, and Groupe Lucien Barrière.

In October 2009, she was appointed Chief Executive Officer of CFG Group. Six years later, CFG Group became CFG Bank, which Benbachir now co-leads.

She is currently an investor in T Capital fund and is a member of the International Advisory Board of her alma mater, Essec. She’s also a member of the agricultural and industrial trade body, “Les Grandes Marques & Conserveries Chérifiennes SA”. She also chairs the Commission for Entrepreneurship Promotion.

In 2005, Benbachir was decorated by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, as Knight of the Order of Wissam Al Arch, for her contribution to Morocco’s development over the years.

Amina Benkhadra

CEO of ONHYM

Amina Benkhadra was Morocco’s minister of energy, mines, water and the environment from 2007 to 2012, when she was nicknamed “Madame Energie” by the media. Now Benkhadra leads the National Bureau of Petroleum and Mines, or ONHYM

An engineer by training, Benkhadra became a pioneer for women in 1994, when she was named the director of mines within the ministry of energy and mines – the first time that a woman was appointed to such a high position by royal decree.

In 1997, she entered the politics when she was named Secretary of State; one of the first four women to reach this role in government. In 1998, she was named Director-General of BRPM, then Director-General of ONAREP, the state exploration company, in 2000. She also oversaw the merger of the two in 2005, which was when ONHYM was created.

Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun

President of Confédération Générale des Entreprises du Maroc

Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun is one of the most powerful businesswomen in Morocco. She holds an MBA from the University of Dallas and is the patron of Les Eaux Minéraux d’Oulmès, the market-leading mineral water in Morocco.

Under her leadership, the company achieved a turnover of MAD1.2 billion in 2013 and employs more than 2,000 people throughout the kingdom.

Bensalah-Chaqroun is one of the heirs of Holmarcom Group, one of the biggest industrial, commercial and financial groups in Morocco. She is also the first Moroccan woman to head the Moroccan General Confederation of Enterprises (CGEM).

Nezha Hayat

Executive committee member of Société Générale Maroc

Nezha Hayat is a member of the executive board of Société Générale Maroc. She founded the Club des Femmes Administrateurs in Morocco and strongly advocates for more women on boards across the kingdom.

This is especially because over 50% of listed companies in Morocco do not have any women at board level.

Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch

Founder and CEO of Aksal-Morocco Mall Group

Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch is a prominent woman in Morocco for her business savvy and forward-thinking strategies. She brought international fashion brands like Zara, Bershka and GAP to Morocco through her company, Aksal.

Growing from there, Idrissi Akhannouch went on to develop the biggest mall in Africa, Morocco Mall, which turns over MAD 5 billion per year.

Idrissi Akhannouch is also part of a power couple. Her husband is the Minister of Agriculture and head of Akwa Group, Aziz Akhannouch. Even so, Idrissi Akhannouch’s success is completely independent of her husband’s status.

Saida Karim Lamrani

Vice President of Safari and Smeia

Saida Karim Lamrani is the Vice President of the Safari family holding company and Smeia, the 13th largest business conglomerate in Morocco.

Smeia turns over MAD 1.4 billion per year as the sole dealer for BMW and Land Rover brands.

Karim Lamrani is the daughter of former Prime Minister Mohammed Karim Lamrani, a legacy that she intends to carry on. She’s the former vice-president of CGEM, and currently, co-leads a club of French-Moroccan business leaders. Karim Lamrani was also decorated by France as Chevalier in the Order of the Legion of Honor.           

Nadia Kettani

Senior Partner at Kettani Law Firm

Nadia Kettani was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful women in the Arab world. As senior partner, she co-leads Kettani Law Firm and is a member of the International Lawyers’ Union.

Over the years, she has advised the international lenders of the Jorf Lasfar power station, assisted French group Vivendi in the sale of Maroc Téléc, advised commercial banks such as Crédit Agricole on the financing of cross-border projects, and more.

Her law firm also facilitates Fonds Hassan II, Morocco’s largest public fund, with economic and social development projects.

The firm is also active in aircraft financing, support clients like Royal Air Morocco.      

Ghita Lahlou El Yacoubi

Director at Saham Assurance SA, & Head of the Ecole Centrale de Casablanca

Ghita Lahlou El Yacoubi is an educator and business leader who brought high-quality education to wider Morocco. She graduated from Ecole Centrale Paris, and began her career at consultancy Arthur Andersen before joining Altair and then the ONA group. She then joined the Saham Group holding company, specializing in offshoring and the health cluster.

As the head of the new Ecole Centrale de Casablanca, a joint effort by the government of Morocco and Ecole Centrale de Paris, El Yacoubi is hoping to ramp up engineering education in the kingdom.

Fatine Layt

Managing Partner at LionTree France

Fatine Layt is a huge influence in Morocco and France. The Franco-Moroccan businesswoman started her career fuelled by her passion for literature and music. She has also founded three profitable companies, taught political science and is still pursuing a career in music.

She went on to head up a corporate finance boutique bank in France, Oddo Corporate Finance. The fund manages a portfolio of more than ten multinational companies such as LVMH Group. This year, Layt became managing partner of LionTree’s French office. The American venture capital firm is interested in building relationships with French growth businesses and saw Layt as the best person for the job.

Rita Maria Zniber

CEO & President at Diana Holding and Vice Chair  at Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits

Since 2014, Rita Maria Zniber has been the head of Diana Holding, a group founded by her husband Brahim Zniber, the first winemaker of the kingdom. The business is the 7th among the most prominent and successful in Morocco with a turnover of more than MAD 3 billion.

Diana Holding also employs over 6500 direct jobs and bolsters the Moroccan economy. Under Zniber’s leadership, the group has invested in French spirits group Belvédère for 13.14% equity as part of an ambitious plan to grow the Moroccan company even further.

Who do you think deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments below.

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