Bold move: It takes serious guts to start your own business in the middle of a global recession, but that’s exactly what Asma did in 2008 when she launched her own HR consultancy, PeopleFirst. But then Asma is more than used to battling the odds and coming out on top. “Life has been tough and thrown many challenges my way. I have always managed to be resourceful and find the energy, drive and commitment to work through challenges.”

Work ethic: Born into a strict Asian family in the UK, she was married by 19 and a mother by 20. It would be 20 years – including ten as a full time carer to a sick husband – before she’d launch herself in the business world. Asma quickly made up for lost time, working first for a blue chip multinational in the UK, and then landing several HR directorship roles at high profile companies in the UAE – including Du Telecommunications and Abu Dhabi Airports Company. She now employs a team of 15 HR specialists and works with public and private sector companies throughout the GCC.

Future goals: Asma plans to develop PeopleFirst on a global scale – but on her own terms. “I get a lot of offers to grow and diversify the business but what is important to me is doing meaningful work and growing the company at a pace that we can sustain without compromising the quality of what we do.”

Be inspired: “To win this award would recognise and celebrate every woman that is prepared to work hard to achieve her dreams and be her best self, despite the odds.”