Arab American Business & Professional Association

Introducing: The emPOWER 10

For Women’s History Month 2023, The Arab-American Business and Professional Association decided to broaden the scope of this year’s emPOWER 10 to include national leaders in business, public affairs, education, and the arts as well as leaders here in Chicago and Illinois.

ABPA is proud to introduce 2023’s emPOWER 10, a group of Arab-American women at the top of their respective fields. Selected by an all women panel of ABPA board members, they serve as role models and mentors for young women in business, education, philanthropy, medicine, and political activism. All of them have overcome numerous obstacles to rise to the top of fields where representation of Arab-American women is low or nearly non-existent.

The emPOWER 10 list dovetails with ABPA’s emPOWER grant program, which will provide financial resources to young Arab-American women starting businesses and community organizations.

The Honorable Judge Mary Barkett

Member - Iran-United States Claims Tribunal

Judge Rosemary Barkett was born in Mexico to Syrian parents. After serving as an elementary school teacher, Judge Barkett went on to law school and began her practice as a trial attorney before being appointed to the bench. After being appointed as a state trial court judge by the Governor of Florida in 1979, Judge Barkett served on several benches before her appointment to the Florida Supreme Court. After her historic election as the first Hispanic Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, she was appointed by President Clinton to the the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and then by President Obama to the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal and the Panel of Conciliators for the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.

During her 30-plus year judicial career, Judge Barkett has worked to improve the administration of the courts, access to justice, and judicial education, notably as a professor at the University of Miami and Columbia Law School.

Shirien Damra

Graphic Designer, Visual Artist

Shirien Damra is a designer and illustrator born and raised in Chicago to a Palestinian family. She incorporates her community organizing background into her art and design work, seeking to challenge systems of oppression and uplift disenfranchised communities and promote healing.
In recent years, Shirien has collaborated with organizations such as the International Rescue Committee, the Center for Cultural Power, Interrupting Criminalization, Trans Youth Justice Project, United We Dream, the Movement Strategy Center, Caring Across Generations, and others. Shirien’s work has been featured by Refinery29, Adobe, ELLE, Bust Magazine, LA Times, TIME, CNN, Hypebeast, Mic, The Advocate, and more.

Maha Freij

President and CEO ACCESS

Maha Freij is a leading visionary in the Arab American community on philanthropy and building strong institutions to strengthen the voice of the community in American civil society. Under her leadership, the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP), a national institution of ACCESS, has established itself as the only national Arab-American community foundation in the U.S., connecting philanthropists across the country and helping them to make a greater impact. Under Maha’s inventive leadership, ACCESS has successfully raised tens of millions of dollars for endowment building and various brick and-mortar projects, including the first-ever Arab-American National Museum in the United States. 

Maha currently serves as a member on the Michigan State Board of Ethics; as a trustee on the Council of Michigan Foundations; on the Board of Trustees for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; on the Detroit Future City Board; and on the Board of Directors for New Detroit, Inc. She is credited as the first Palestinian woman to earn a CPA license in Israel in 1989 – the same year she immigrated to the United States.


Maysoon Zayid

Comedian, Actress, Writer

Maysoon Zayid is a comedian, actress, writer, and disability advocate. As a professional comedian, Maysoon has sold out top New York clubs and has toured extensively around the world. She was a headliner on the Arabs Gone Wild Comedy Tour and The Together Live Tour. Maysoon appeared alongside Adam Sandler in “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” and has written for Glamour magazine. She limped in New York Fashion Week and is a recurring character on General Hospital. She is the author of the best-selling memoir Find Another Dream and is currently collaborating with Scholastic on her debut comic book Shiny Misfits.

Maysoon is the co-founder/co-executive producer of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival and The Muslim Funny Fest. She was a full-time On Air Contributor to Countdown with Keith Olbermann and a columnist for The Daily Beast. She has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN, ABC News, and Oprah Winfrey Networks. She is a graduate of Arizona State University and a Princeton Fellow

Dr. Manal Fakhoury

CEO Vestech Partners

Dr. Manal Fakhoury is a business leader with extensive experience in both the non-profit and for-profit space. With over 30 years of non-profit and leadership experience, she serves in roles on many community and national boards, including: the Truist Bank Board of Directors; the YMCA Executive Board; as American Heart Association Heart Walk Chair; Rotary International President; Toastmasters International; Founder and President of Ollin Women International; Curator for TEDxOcala; and as Gavel Club Counselor for the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC).

Dr. Fakhoury also serves as a consultant pharmacist, motivational speaker, TEDx speaker, and mentor. Manal brings a very strong background in community service, leadership and fundraising. Manal earned her undergraduate, and doctorate from the University of Southern California, and MBA from Webster University where she has also received the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Deena Shakir

General Partner Lux Capital

Deena Shakir serves as Partner at Lux Capital, where her investments span stages and sectors, including women’s health, digital health infrastructure, health equity, food tech, and fintech. Prior to Lux, Deena was a Partner at GV (formerly Google Ventures), led product partnerships at Google for health, search, and AI/ML, and directed social impact investments at Deena also served as a Presidential Management Fellow at The U.S. Department of State under Secretary Clinton, where she helped launch President Obama’s first Global Entrepreneurship Summit. 

She is a Lecturer in Management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a Board Director for the National Venture Capital Association, and a member of Kauffman Fellows, Aspen Finance Fellows, and The Council on Foreign Relations. In 2022, she was named as a part of Fortune Magazine’s 40 Under 40. Deena self-funded her undergraduate degree at Harvard and MA at Georgetown through a variety of merit scholarships and side hustles, including co-founding and selling her first company while in college.

Fayrouz Saad

Director of Public Engagement CHIPS for America Program Office

Fayrouz Saad is a Michigan native with nearly 20 years experience working in public service at the state, local, and federal level, currently serving as the Director of Public Engagement for the CHIPs Program Office at the Department of Commerce. Most recently, Fayrouz served as Director of Public Engagement at USAID, where she led engagements with external audiences on behalf of the Administrator and the Agency.


Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Fayrouz spent five years in Michigan working on economic integration programs for immigrant and refugee communities. In Michigan, she served as the first Director of Immigration Affairs for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and later was appointed by Governor Whitmer as the Executive Director of Global Michigan.  Fayrouz also served in the Obama Administration at the Department of Homeland Security. She is the proud daughter of Lebanese immigrants and entrepreneurs.

Vivian Khalaf

Founding Partner Khalaf & Abuzir, LLC

Vivian R. Khalaf is the founding partner at Khalaf & Abuzir, LLC and its affiliate office, Agility Services, in Ramallah, Palestine. Vivian has spent over 30 years concentrating her practice in immigration and nationality law, including immigrant and non-immigrant visas, naturalization, asylum, removal defense and Federal immigration litigation. Born in Jerusalem, she immigrated to the United States at 6 months old and spent her childhood and education between Chicago and Ramallah. She would go on to earn her JD from Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Vivian actively worked on repealing the Muslim Travel Ban and was part of the Doe v. Trump case. She was chosen as a “Top Attorneys of North America” by the Who’s Who Directory for 2020-2021 and was recently awarded the Chicago Bar Association’s 2021 Vanguard Award as the nominee of the Arab-American Bar Association. Vivian serves on the boards of the Arab-American Business and Professional Association (“AABPA”), the Arab-American Voters Alliance (“AMVOTE”), the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (“PCRF”) and the Arab-American Bar Association (“AABAR”).

Marlo Thomas

Actress & Outreach Director St. Jude Children’s Hospital

An award-winning actress, producer, social activist and philanthropist, Marlo Thomas has been a role model for women and girls since she blazed the trail as television’s first single woman living alone in the hit television series That Girl. She’s appeared in numerous acclaimed television movies, including Nobody’s Child, for which she won the Emmy for Best Dramatic Actress. She also frequently returns to the theatrical stage, on and off Broadway and in regional theatres across the country. In addition to her acclaimed acting career in television and film and on the stage, she is the author of seven bestselling books.

Marlo also serves as National Outreach Director for St. Jude. She is the driving force behind countless fundraising and awareness efforts to educate the public about the lifesaving research and treatment being done every day at St. Jude. In 2014, Marlo was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Marlo has received four Emmys, nine Emmy nominations, the George Foster Peabody Award, a Golden Globe and a Grammy, and she has been inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Bella and Gigi Hadid


Bella Hadid is a Palestinian-American supermodel who was voted “Model of the Year” in 2016 by industry professionals for Over the span of four years, Hadid has made twenty-seven appearances on international Vogue magazine covers. Bella began her modeling career at the age of 16. She was signed to IMG Models in August 2014, and made her New York Fashion Week debut the following month. In 2017, Hadid broke the record for the most Vogue September covers in one year by appearing in five international editions.


Gigi Hadid is a Palestinian-American supermodel and television personality. She signed to IMG Models in 2013 and made her New York Fashion Week debut the following year. In 2016, she was named International Model of the Year by the British Fashion Council. Over the course of four years, she has made thirty-five appearances on international Vogue magazine covers. She has appeared in numerous fashion campaigns and editorials and serves as a model for Maybelline.