Elham Al-Qasimi is the first Arab woman and the first UAE national to reach the North Pole.
Elham Al Qasimi was born in July 1982 in Dubai, UAE, but lived in the United States until the age of twelve. While in the United States, Elham became extremely athletic, swimming almost daily, and then taking up gymnastics at the age of six. Elham then decided to simultaneously take up Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial arts technique, and competed nationally in the US, earning silver and gold medals in the respective forms of weapons and free sparring.
Elham finished high school in the UAE in 1999 and graduated at the age of 16 from Al Mawakeb High School with a distinction award, a recognition award for all around excellence, and The President’s Shield. She was president of the Student Council and also a dedicated scout for the last four years of her schooling, earning numerous team and individual distinctions.
Elham earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business with a concentration in Marketing at the American University in Dubai in 2004. During that time, she earned the Sheikh Mohammed scholarship and graduated Suma Cum Laude. During her last year in AUD, Elham joined the marketing team at Dubai Aid City, in an effort to gain work experience ahead of her planned graduate studies.
In September 2004, Elham moved to London and began her studies at the London School of Economics. She studied in the School of Social Policy and earned an MSc in Management of NGOs with a Distinction on her graduating thesis and an overall Merit. Having completed her graduate studies, Elham then undertook an internship at the Overseas Development Institute, a leading think tank for international development.
Elham began work at J P Morgan in January 2006. After completing a two-month corporate finance training programme in New York, Elham was placed in the Global Diversified Industrials Team based in London, working on merger and acquisitions transactions in industries such as building materials, chemicals, metals and mining, and infrastructure.
After three years, Elham left J P Morgan and joined the Impetus Trust as an investment manager. Impetus is a venture philanthropy fund, which means they apply the principles of venture capital to investing for philanthropic purposes. As an investment manager it was Elham’s job to conduct due diligence on charities and social enterprises and identify those with the most distinctive delivery models and build a case for investment committee approval. Elham stayed with Impetus for around a year but resigned in order to focus completely on her North Pole expedition. In April, 2010, she embarked on a successful skiing expedition to the North Pole.
The combined life-changing experiences of trekking to the North Pole and then becoming a mum have inspired the entrepreneur to use her pregnancy to research the type of start-up she had always dreamt of leading, and then use her maternity leave to get the project started. She has founded a natural laundry service recently. Al Qasimi gives motivational talks to students, young people and professionals across the UAE, maintains her full-time job and is a member of the GlobalFoundries Board of Directors, a California-based semiconductor company.
In 2017, Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan presented Elham Al Qasimi the Arab Woman Award-UAE for her contribution in the finance category.
She is typical of a new generation of young Emirati women. And while she’s pleased with the progress of women here have made in general, she’s also aware that more must be done to encourage them to take up challenges of every kind.
“I think women here are a far greater force for development, a more forwardlooking and valuable human capital than we necessarily appreciate,” she says. “In fact there are many accomplished, smart and talented women in the country and I believe they can contribute more in a creative and economic sense to the UAE of the future."
“I’m pleased with the achievements they’ve made so far, but I think we should set our standards and goals higher. Women have to do what they love rather than simply what they think they should do.”
She is married and has three children.