Dr. Hayat bint Sulaiman bin Hassan Sindi
Dr. Hayat Sindi has a lot of “firsts” under her proverbial belt. She was the first Saudi female PhD candidate to be accepted into the biotechnology track at Cambridge, and subsequently, became the first Arab woman to complete a doctoral degree in that particular area of study. However, her most groundbreaking work to date has been cultural. Dr. Sindi serves as one of the first female members of the Shura Council, which is the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia, appointed by, and answerable to, the King.
Dr. Sindi is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, a National Geographic Society Emerging Explorer, one of Newsweek’s 150 Women Who Shook the World, and was awarded the Mekkah Al Mukaramah prize for scientific innovation by HRH Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud. On top of her presidentially-recognized work at Harvard, Dr. Sindi is leveraging her global acclaim and recognition in science, business and politics, to promote STEM education for young women - especially in the Muslim world.
And it must be noted, that the true power of Dr. Sindi’s feminism, is in it’s complexity. Ultimately, her progressive views about a woman’s right to be educated and to have a voice in the government, also allow space for her traditional views. Despite her immersion into western culture, Dr. Sindi chooses to wear a traditional Muslim headscarf. She believes that a person's religion has no bearing on their ability to make significant scientific contributions to the world. Can you imagine a more empowering example tradition and progress living in harmony?
Image credit: (C)Rolex Awards Jess Hoffman