The world is a tough place for women, but it can be even tougher for women in the Arab world. 

On one hand, Arab women must fight the patriarchy from inside their own countries. At the same time, they have to continuously shut down false media representations in the west

It's a struggle women have been confronting for centuries, but persistence has paved the way for progress. 

Here are 10 inspiring Arab women who refused to let the media define them. Instead, they've smashed the glass ceiling and reached for the stars.

1. Adwa Al Dakheel (Saudi)

Adwa Al Dakheel has been breaking stereotypes and traditional gender norms surrounding Saudi women since she was 16 years old. 

At just 16 years of age, Al Dakheel became a "stock market analyst" and wrote her first book titled Proven Billionaires' Formula - a compilation of 300 business and psychology books.

Aside from being a professional Forex trader and author, the 25-year-old influencer is the founder of the startup R&A fund, CEO of growth hacking firm Direct Influence Company, a guitarist, an aerobatic pilot, and the kingdom's squash champion.

Throughout the years, Al Dakheel won first prize in the poetry competition at the World Poetry Forum in Washington and was Saudi Arabia's squash champion in 2008 and 2009. 

2. Laila Alawa (Syrian)

Laila Alawa, a media and technology entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of The Tempest, one of the "fastest growing media companies changing the global narrative of diverse millennial women." 

Through the website, Alawa gives women an opportunity to break down barriers by reporting on issues that fight the stereotypes.

In 2018, Alawa was named among Forbes' 30 Under 30 list for "elevating the voices of women of all ethnicities around the world," according to her website.

3. Mona Eltahawy (Egyptian)

Mona Eltahawy is a feminist, journalist, author, and public speaker whose work has appeared in various international publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, to name a few.

Egyptian riot police beat Eltahawy in November 2011, breaking her left arm and right hand. She was also sexually assaulted and detained for 12 hours by the Interior Ministry and Military Intelligence. 

Eltahawy is as outspoken as one could be. In her book "Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution," she offers a look at how patriarchy in the Middle East permeates every aspect of women's lives. 

The book highlights the importance of both social and sexual revolutions if advances in political revolutions are to be made. In 2010, she was ranked the 30th most powerful Arab Woman by Arabian Business.

4. Amani Al Khatahtbeh (Jordanian-Palestinian)

Jordanian-Palestinian Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is all about the empowerment of women, especially in today's Islamophobic world. 

She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl, a website targeting Muslim women in the United States with a tagline that is all about speaking up. 

Al-Khatahtbeh's work has not gone unnoticed. She was named in Forbes' 30 under 30 list in 2016 under the media category. Her face has also been featured on several billboards in Times Square for her incredible and empowering work. 

And, that's not all. Al Khatahtbeh regularly appears on CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera, where she comments on political, social, and women's issues. 

"I'm on a mission to make history by empowering Muslim women's media representation through developing the first mainstream media network by and for Muslim women," she said, according to Forbes.

5. Nadine Labaki (Lebanese)

Lebanon's Nadine Labaki, an award-winning filmmaker, has been using film to depict strong female characters in an attempt to break stereotypes and spark conversions surrounding taboo topics. 

Her directorial debut "Caramel" (2007) tackled various dilemmas women in Lebanese society are often faced with including sex and sexuality. The Lebanese romantic comedy premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

"These are issues people are living, especially in Lebanon. The aim is not to give lessons, but to show things as they are," said Labaki, according to Reuters.

Labaki's "Where Do We Go Now" (2011) is another example. The film highlights the religious tensions in Lebanese society by unfolding a story of co-existence. It premiered at Cannes Film Festival and was submitted for the 2012 Academy Awards. The film also won the People's Choice Award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

6. Shaikha Al Qassemi (Emirati)

Young Emirati crossfitter, Shaikha Al Qassemi, is paving the way for females who aspire to become competitive athletes in the CrossFit games. 

Qassemi, or "Kiki," practices religiously and shares her daily grind and fitness tips with her thousands of followers on Instagram and Snapchat. 

She can lift, do muscle ups, and box jumps without flinching ... and she's been reaching the stars since.

In 2016, Al Qassimi became a Red Bull athlete and is also an ambassador for the Canadian brand Lululemon Athletica. 

"I have come a long way in my ­personal growth and physical performance," she once said in an interview with The National. 

"My biggest achievement is the progress in my performance and my mental game during competitions."

7. Mona Haydar (Syrian)

Mona Haydar, a Syrian Muslim-American poet and activist, broke the internet in March 2017, when she released an epic rap video. 

Rapping about wrapping her hijab, Haydar – who was noticeably pregnant at the time – became a viral sensation, raising awareness about the struggles of Muslim women in the West, and specifically hijabis.

Apart from producing stereotype-smashing music videos, Haydar has been changing the conversation alongside her husband, Sebastian Robins, who converted to Islam in 2012 after meeting her.

The power couple has been trying to "conquer fear through conversation".

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the couple started the #AskAMuslim initiative, where they set up booths around Cambridge, Massachusetts, to talk to people who have questions about Islam.

8. Laila Hzaineh (Jordanian-Palestinian)

Jordanian-Palestinian feminist Laila Hzaineh has been challenging societal norms in the Arab world using the power of social media - specifically video. 

As a video blogger, the 20-year-old courageously tackles issues women in the region often find hard to face, including sexism, harassment, and the unspoken truth about domestic violence. 

Her most popular one to date is a response to one man's post in which he suggested that women bring sexual harassment onto themselves through the clothes they wear. 

Hzaineh shot back in a video that ultimately went viral, amassing nearly 100,000 views on the social platform.

9. Dalia Farghal (Egyptian)

In 2017, Dalia El Faghal took to Facebook to tell the world she is in a relationship with a woman. Soon after her Facebook post went viral, El Faghal began receiving both messages of hate and support. 

"I was attacked by people ... and my dad got death threats and other hateful messages," Farghal said in an interview with BuzzFeed.

However, following her public announcement, Faghal's father congratulated her on her new relationship - something she did not expect. Despite her father's support, Faghal believes she is "the most hated woman in Egypt" because of her sexuality. 

10. Noor Tagouri (Libyan)

Broadcasters generally steer clear of hiring hijabi reporters and news anchors, even in Muslim communities. 

But times are a-changin'.

Many hijab-wearing journalists, reporters, and actresses have fought their way to screens all over the world. Libyan-American journalist Noor Tagouri is among them.

In 2016, Tagouri took the spotlight when she became the first hijab-wearing news anchor on commercial U.S. television. That same year, she became the first hijabi to be featured by Playboy magazine.

Tagouri was included in Playboy's Renegades of 2016 October issue, which features stereotypes-crushing men and women. 

"They’ve risked it all - even their lives - to do what they love, showing us what can be accomplished if we break the rules," explained Playboy at the time.

STEP Conference 2018

Between March 28-29, more than 6000 techies will gather in Dubai for the latest in entrepreneurship, digital, fintech, and future tech. 

STEP Digital will focus on the most forward-thinking topics and global trends in digital, advertising technology, content, and media. In addition, it will feature exhibitions, workshops, and talks from global influencers in the digital media industry. 

Speakers such as Fahad Albutairi, Mashal Waqar from The Tempest, Starz Play's Vural Cifci, and many others will take the stage at the conference. 

Don't miss this year's STEP Conference, the most experiential tech festival in 2018. Get your tickets here.