Celebrating The First Woman in International Trade

She knew her journey would be difficult, but she had little choice. Essential products for her people were becoming scarce, traditional trading partners had become expensive and supply unreliable. She identified a new source of exotic goods, but it was in the distant Land of Punt, not traded with for many centuries. So, she built five ships, each 70 feet long, and, with only 210 sailors and soldiers, she sailed rivers and unchartered canals to secure valuable products. She returned home after 25 days with incense for temples, frankincense and myrrh trees, amber, gold, lapis-lazuli, ivory, precious woods and wild animals. Her courageous pioneering spirit resulted in success, and she became one of history’s earliest women to have an important profile in international trade.

The name of this remarkable woman is Queen Hatshepsut. Her name means ‘She is First Among Noble Women’ – and she was a powerful Pharaoh, reigning as Queen of Egypt, and the fifth ruler of the 18th Dynasty, from 1473 to 1458 BCE. Previously overshadowed by that other female Pharaoh (Cleopatra, who ruled Egypt between 51 and 30 BCE), Hatshepsut is now more broadly recognised for her achievements in sculpture and the decorative arts and in building temples and monuments – including her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri. However, beyond these achievements was her focus on renewing international trade with not only the Land of Punt, but also Western Asia and the Aegean islands, resulting in a period of economic prosperity for Egypt.

Queen Hatshepsut was a trailblazing figure of ancient Egypt, defying the constraints of her time to become the first woman known to engage in international trade. In a world where women’s voices were often marginalised, Hatshepsut dared to challenge societal norms and grasp the reins of power following the death of her husband, Thutmose II. Her ascension to the throne marked a pivotal moment in history, demonstrating that women could wield authority and drive change in even the most entrenched patriarchal societies.

However, Hatshepsut’s ground-breaking efforts in international trade truly set her apart. Yet, despite her many achievements, Hatshepsut’s legacy faced challenges after her reign. Her successor, Thutmose III, sought to erase her memory from history, ordering the removal of her name and likeness from monuments and records. Yet, Hatshepsut’s indomitable spirit and enduring legacy could not be extinguished, serving as a testament to her lasting impact on ancient Egypt and beyond.

Today, as we celebrate the strides made in gender equality, Hatshepsut’s story serves as a powerful reminder of women’s resilience, courage, and risk-taking spirit.

In a world still grappling with systemic barriers and gender bias, her example inspires women to defy expectations, pursue their aspirations, and reshape the narratives that define their lives.

As we mark International Women’s Day 2024, honour Hatshepsut’s memory by redoubling our efforts to support and empower women everywhere. By investing in their potential, providing equitable opportunities, and amplifying their voices, we uplift individuals and contribute to a more inclusive and prosperous society. Just as Hatshepsut’s bold actions transformed ancient Egypt, so too can women’s collective strength and determination today shape a brighter future for all.


This is an edited expert from the CEO of FD Global Connection, Trena Blair’s debut book, Decoding Global Growth. How Successful Companies Scale Internationally.

Acknowledging image source: Rob Koopman, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license Source.