Once upon a time, it was a big deal for an Egyptian women to have a job period; girls were expected to grow up to be ‘set el beit’, until in 1930 Hilana Sedarous paved the way by becoming the country’s first female licensed doctor.
Following Sedarous’ bold career path, Egyptian women began seeking jobs that had before only been an option for men; just three years later in 1933, Lotfia El-Nadi became the first woman in the history of the MENA region to receive a pilot’s license, in 1956 Rawya Attia became the first female officer in the Egyptian Armed Forces— reaching the rank of Captian, and then in 1962 Hikmat Abu-Zeid became the first female Cabinet member in Egypt.
No doubt, Egyptian women have been badass bosses since the days of Nefertiti. However, even in 2017 a stigma remains in regards to certain fields that are considered male-centric. But for women like Tahany El-Gebali, Nadia Ahmed Abdou and Magda Malek, being told their aspirations are just ‘not appropriate for a woman’ did little to deter them from achieving greatness.
Read on to learn about how they, and other Egyptian women, are making history:
El-Gebali made headlines in 2003 when she was appointed as Egypt’s first female judge. In her career, she gained nationwide prominence after acquiring numerous high-profile cases, and was made deputy president of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, as well as becoming the first woman to be elected on the Permanent Bureau of the Union of Arab Lawyers.
Nadia Ahmed Abdou
Just last week, on Feb 16, Abdou was sworn in before President Al-Sisi as the new governor of Beheira, becoming the first female to ever hold a governor post in Egypt. She had been serving as the deputy governor since 2013, and previously held the position of chief of the Alexandria Drinking Water Company, being the first woman to hold that post as well.
Earlier this week, on Feb 19, Malek was announced as the first ever EgyptAir Boeing 777-300 pilot. not only is she the first woman to fly EgyptAir’s biggest aircraft, she’s the first person—period—to do so. Having graduated from the Egyptian Aviation Academy in 2005, Malek has been flying passenger planes since 2008.
Mogahed became the first hijabi in the White House in 2009 when she was appointed as an advisor in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during Barack Obama‘s administration.
In 2008, Habil beat out five other male candidates when she was appointed as mayor of Komboha, becoming the first-ever woman in Egypt to take on the role.
El-Walily was ranked the #1 female professional squash player in the world by the Professional Squash Association (PSA) in 2015. Previoiusly, she was voted WISPA Young Player of the Year in 2005 for the second time after winning it initially in 2004. Currently, she is the fourth ranking female professional squash player internationally.
Despite living in highly conservative Upper Egypt, El-Kholy has managed to pave an unconventional and male-dominated career path for herself— car maintenance. She was even honoured by President Al-Sisi in a 2016 youth conference in Aswan, when the said he would help El-Kholy achieve her dream of establishing a large car maintenance center in Luxor.
Last summer, Abdel-Karim became the first female marine engineer to graduate from the Arab Academy of Science and Technology, challenging the male-dominated industry.
Shafik, originally from Alexandria, is leaving her role as a deputy governor of the Bank of England this month to lead the London School of Economics as Director starting from September, becoming the first woman ever to run the world-renowned LSE. In 2015, she was honored by Queen Elizabeth II for her outstanding contributions in her field of work.
The Female National Football Team
Football is pretty much considered a predominantly-male sport not only in Egypt, but on an international scale. However, Egypt’s Female National Football Team proved that they know a thing or two about scoring goals when they qualified to the 2016 African Cup for the first time in Egypt’s history and won their first match of the tournament!