Mona Yousif Almoayyed is a Businesswoman, Philanthropist, Environmentalist and Women's Rights Campaigner who is the Managing Director of one of Bahrain's oldest conglomerates Y.K Almoayyed and Sons.
A Bachelor of Business Administration, Mona has been instrumental in overseeing the business endeavours of the Y K Almoayyed group, leading it meticulously towards its desired destination.
Voted the third most influential Arab Women's List in the MENA region by Forbes Middle East for 2013, Mona is a member of the board of directors for BMMI and Ebda Bank besides other companies. She is well known for her charity work and frequently speaks about the role of women in building a better society today. Mona has been a firm believer of 'Business with a Conscience' principle and is involved in many charitable institutions. Besides her Business and Social Activity, Mona strives to draw a perfect balance between being a mother, housewife and mentor role she plays.
Having been brought up in a conservative environment in the 70's Middle East, the young girl's childhood was simple and disciplined like any middle class arab girl's upbringing.
However on the journey she had to encounter many obstacles as were the days where women were not given their due. The social pressure was immense but a strong self-belief and a never give up attitude wouldn't dishearten the young girl who had a vision of making a difference to society in her very own way. Her support came in the role of her father and her would be husband.
Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons is a diversified group established in 1940, with divisions specializing in trading, contracting, concrete products, air-conditioning, telecom services and property development. The group employs over 2,000 people.
Mona is the first woman to be elected to the Board of a publicly traded company in Bahrain - Bahrain Maritime and Mercantile International with reported revenues reaching BD 80m. She is the vice chairman of The Ebdaa Bank for Micro Financing.
LEADERS Middle East caught up with Mona Yousif Almoayyed for an insight into the Y.K Almoayyed & Sons world.
Established in 1940 by your father Mr. Yousuf Khalil Almoayyed, the YK Almoayyed & Sons group is one of the Gulf’s most respected business conglomerates. How would you describe this journey of 75 years in business?
Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons began operations in 1940 when the founder, Yousuf Khalil Almoayyed, opened his first shop at Tijjar Road. What was once a one man trading outlet in Manana’s main market is now a multi faceted organization. Today, the company represents prestigious international brands that include Nissan, Infiniti, For, Renault, Toshiba, Sony, Bose and Kodak to name a few. Yousuf Khalil Almoayyed & Sons has big aspirations and continues from strength-to-strength, to prosper and grow. From the early days when my father established his foremost trades in the 1940s until his death in 1996, he has remained closely linked to all aspects of the business; he inspired and managed its steady growth. I, my brothers and sisters have all inherited my father’s business acumen and entrepreneurial ability, a flair for solid, hard work and a desire for commercial success. Today, Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons Group is a multi-faceted, diverse mercantile organization and service industry. We the directors ensure that we all work hard to adapt to the needs and challenges of the 21st century, allowing us to further develop with commercial vision and integrity. We have achieved much of what my father wanted over recent years, and are proud at having settled this impressive enterprise at the top of everything we have aimed for.
You run YK Almoayyed & Sons, overseeing 1,000 staff and 100 brands ranging from luxury goods and home electronics to heavy equipment, medical technologies and concrete. What does the future hold for YK Almoayyed & Sons group?
The Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons enterprise has diversified and entered the 21st century with a host of significant achievements. The profitability of the group has been increasing every year since the death of its founder in 1996. We have opened businesses across the GCC countries and run the group base on quality standards such as the ISO certification and a quarterly Balance Score Cards meetings. Our objective is now to have all departments certified within the very near future. Our company aim is to encourage more Bahrainis to join the organization so they can prosper and grow together. Y. K. Almoayyed & Sons are fortunate to have found some impressive young Bahraini nationals through their training programme who will add value in the future. Management remains in close touch with employees at all levels; female rights are supported and job promotions are made irrespective of background or gender.
The modern Kingdom of Bahrain has seen steady progress and it seems certain the country will remain the financial hub of the Gulf. Bahrain’s government encourages foreign investment and thus enjoys increasingly buoyant overseas trade. The leading merchant families work well together and, despite being competitors, are united in promoting their homeland.
You are currently chairperson of Al Muntada, a forum promoting liberalism in Bahrain, and you work closely with the Migrant Workers Protection Society. What are some of your initiatives in this field?
Bahrain has strong NGO (Non Government Organizations) which represent a big majority of the Barhraini population. Almuntada ( The forum in English) was established in 2001 by a group of professionals, business people, academics and intellectuals of both sexes that came together in search of a mean to express themselves, to promote the values of tolerance and understanding, and to contribute to the building of democratic institution in the country. It advocates an open society based on greater spaces for freedom of thought and expression and opposes the forces of sectarianism and extremism.
I was one of the founder of Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) and the Chair Person for 6 years from 2005-2011. It was established in 2005 to protect the low paid migrant workers in Bahrain. Its main objectives are educating the community and create a proper atmosphere to assist and protect the migrant workers. The society has a shelter which receives on average 200 cases a year of abused maids and nonpayment of salaries.
Bahrain has been home to your family business for over decades. How would you describe this moment in time Bahrain is going through?
Bahrain is the most democratic country in the region and naturally with democracy comes opposition. Our business was affected during the political problems in 2011, but since then we have recovered fully and our sales and profit for 2014 is above budget and previous year by 10%.
Bahrain is very popular with foreign banks and institution. It is tax free country and the cost of living is the lowest compared to other GCC countries in term of rents, electricity and municipalities. Most major food items are subsidized by the government ie meat, rice and flour. Beside these advantages the Bahraini people are well known for their hospitability and friendliness with the foreigners. The biggest advantage of Bahrain is the proximity to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mrs. Almoayyed, you are regarded as one of the most important women business leaders in the region. What is the role that women are playing in business in the GCC?
According to a study carried out on GCC Women by the Global Gender Gap 2011 & World Bank 2009 GCC women accounted for between 7% and 22% of legislators, senior officials and managers in the region. Lowest female participation in this category was from Qatar and Saudi Arabia (7% each),while Bahrain bagged the highest position with 22% females representing legislators, senior officials, and managers in the country.
The participation of women in the workforce in GCC Countries has increased significantly. According to the World Bank, in 2009, women's participation in the labor force reached 49.9% in Qatar, 45.4% in Kuwait, 41.9% in the UAE, 32.4% in Bahrain, 25.4% in Oman, and 21.2% in Saudi Arabia.
The percentage of women in the private sector has increased significantly, from 19.4% of the total female workforce in 1991 to an average of 35% of the national work force in 2014.
Four women won elections to the Board of Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2014.
Bahraini women held 29% of commercial registrations in Bahrain in 2012.
Bahrain has become the first Arab country to appoint a woman as Minister of State for Information Affairs and the government’s official spokeswoman.
Woman now make up 19% of National Assembly Seats, 22% of Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry members while 4% sit on the National Institution for Human Rights.
Bahraini women were for the first time appointed ambassadors in 1999 to countries like U.S, U.K. and China.
Currently there are 15 women who are members of Parliament and Shura Council representing 19% of the total members.
15 Bahraini Women including ministers and business leaders, were among those listed in 2014 Forbes Middle East 200 Most Powerful Arab Women which includes women in government, family business and executive management roles .
Bahrain is one of the first countries in the Gulf Region that highly considered education, particularly for girls. Today, women make up more than half of the Education Ministry Employees.
In the Education Ministry, women make up to 52% of the ministry out of which 46% are in leadership positions. In addition, 61% of teachers in the country are women.
Bahraini women have reached (61%) from the total amount of students in the higher educational level during 2011-2012, the rest of which are men (39%). Moreover, the ration of female higher education graduates in universities and government institutions was 58% in academic year 2010-2011.
Bahrain has 13 public, private and regional universities, the largest of which being Bahrain University where 72% of students are women.
What have you learnt from your father as a businessman?
I learnt from my father many lessons in business which helped me at my work. The first lesson in business is gaining the trust of your customers. Second important quality is honesty and keeping your promises without the need to sign agreements.
From my father I learnt that business is all about networking and that was his secret of success. He was a sociable and popular person with all people around him. He was kind and charitable to the people in need.