Arab-American women: Making their mark and sharing their stories

Black-and-white portrait of Juman Doley-Alomary (Institute for Social Policy and Understanding)
Juman Doley-Alomary (Institute for Social Policy and Understanding)

Across the country Arab-American women are building businesses and careers while supporting their communities and encouraging others. Here are three women who have forged their own paths and committed to help others.

Juman Doleh-Alomary is the information technology audit director at Wayne State University in Detroit. She is the former president and current executive board member of the Arab American Women’s Business Council.

Achieving success in an industry where only 11 percent of the workforce is made up of women is impressive. But Doleh-Alomary says the greatest challenge she has overcome “was immigrating with my family over here and trying to fit in.”

“Being the ambassador of Arab-American women is always something that I feel passionately about.” Her role models include her mother and her grandmother, who taught her to be strong and independent, and Marcy Klevorn, the chief information officer at Ford Motor Company, where Doleh-Alomary used to work.

Doleh-Alomary mentors Arab-American women and works with organizations like Community Helpers, which settles refugees in Michigan.

Three women in front of wall with artwork (Courtesy of Zeena Altalib)
Zeena Altalib (center) (Courtesy photo)

Zeena Altalib is the founder and chief executive of Primo Moda, a clothing store for women that offers modest clothing without sacrificing style.

Altalib told Arab News she became interested in fashion and design as a child growing up in Iraq. Her mother taught her how to sew, and she began making clothing for her dolls.

Her family moved to Virginia, where she started Primo Moda. She said it was “extremely difficult to find stylish, modest clothing in 2005 in the mainstream market,” so she decided to make her own.

She points to Khadija, a wife of prophet Muhammad, as her female inspiration. “She was a prominent business woman that had very forward ideas and implementation of business concepts,” Zeena said.

Now she runs an international business serving Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and has expanded beyond her initial audience. “I’ve received a lot of comments and e-mails from Jewish and Christian ladies who have bought my clothes,” she told Arab News.

Now she is gearing her efforts toward “consultations and workshops that support global entrepreneurs to start and market themselves and their businesses.”

Hazami Barmada (pictured on the left in the tweet below) is a social entrepreneur in Washington. She is the co-founder of Al-Mubadarah: Arab Empowerment Initiative, an organization that harnesses the expertise of global Arab expatriates to boost economic development in the Arab world.

It’s important to challenge stereotypes, says Barmada. For example, too few people realize that many Arab girls have embraced computer coding and tech entrepreneurship: “This is happening across the region.”

Her own mentors “were the people who pushed me to realize my own agency and capacity,” Barmaza says. “We often get caught up looking for answers and trying to make sense of what’s happening around us … [but] my mentors asked me to stop, sit still and think about what’s within. So much of our success is driven by our own inner voice.”

She advises others to support social development by studying what is already happening in the areas they want to change. Find great ideas that haven’t been properly implemented, and “look around to identify allies and collaborators” who can help those ideas succeed, she said.

Lauren Monsen contributed to this story.