10 Most Influential Career Women in 2013

Women, in a society like ours especially, find more challenges on the way to an accomplished career. This list (the first we are compiling) is a compendium of inspiring career women who have, against the odds, achieved enviable heights in their various career, rubbing shoulders with their male counterparts and influencing younger, aspiring individuals in their various fields.

Some of the women in this list are well-known public figures by virtue of serving the government in one capacity or the other. Others have quietly built a reputation for themselves in their chosen careers

1. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Field: Finance

Nigeria's most successful and accomplished career women

Nigeria’s most successful and accomplished career women

Mrs Okonjo Iweala is an accomplished banker having spent worked through a 21 year career at the World Bank rising from the position of Development Economist to Vice President. Before being appointed as Vice President she previously held Country Director position for Malaysia, Mongolia, Laos and Cambodia and Director, Middle East region.

She is currently Nigeria’s Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy after also earlier serving as Finance Minister under Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. Before accepting the current ministerial appointment she also served as Managing Director of the World Bank and unsuccessfully ran for the World Bank Presidency.

Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is arguably Nigeria’s most influential woman today given her critical position in the economic affairs of the nation. She has certainly reached lofty heights in her chosen banking and economy career.

2. Oby Ezekwesili
Field: Finance/Accounting

Oby Ezekwesili an accomplished economist and former Minister in Nigeria

Oby Ezekwesili an accomplished economist and former Minister in Nigeria

Oby Ezekwesili is a trained accountant and holds a Masters in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos and also a Masters of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She started her accomplished career training with Deloitte and Touche and qualified as a Chartered Accountant.

Ezekwesili reached the peak of an illustrious career in economics and finance when she was appointed World Bank Vice President for Africa region in May 2007. Politically she started under Obasanjo’s administration as pioneer head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit (aka Due Process Unit). It was in this position that she earned the sobriquet of “Madam Due Process” for the outstanding work she led a team of professionals to do in sanitizing public procurement or contracting at the Federal level in Nigeria. She was later appointed Minister of Solid Minerals and then Minister of Education.

Her accomplishments include co-founding and serving as one of the pioneer directors of Transparency International, acting as Senior Economic Advisor for Open Society a group founded by Billionaire George Soros. She was appointed Director by Bharti Airtel one of the world’s leading telecommunications group. Additionally she sits on the board of several reputable organisations including World Wildlife Fund (WWF), The Harold Hartog School of Government and Policy etc.

3. Omotola Jalade Ekeinde
Field: Arts/Acting

Omotola Jalade Ekeinde

Omotola Jalade Ekeinde

Actress Omotala Ekeinde’s status in the league of women in Nigeria and Africa was undisputedly confirmed by her recent inclusion in the 2013 Time 100 List of most influential people across arts, business, politics.

One of Nigeria’s leading screen divas Omotala has featured in around 300 movies selling millions of video copies. In early 2013, Omotola made her U.S. television debut in VH1’s scripted series, Hit the Floor. Having released 2 music albums it is however as an actress and philanthropist that Omotola has made her mark. Omotola became a United Nations WFP (World Food Programme) Ambassador in 2005 going to missions in Sierra- Leone and Liberia.

4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Field: Arts/Writing

Chimamanda Adichie - renowned female author

Chimamanda Adichie – renowned female author

Few Nigerian women have matched the male folk in the creative writing industry as the youthful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Tagged as the most prominent of a “procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors that is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature” Chimamanda’s most notable works are The Purple Hibiscus; shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004), awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (2005) and Half of a Yellow Sun; awarded the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction.

She has also published The Thing Around Your Neck, a collection of short stories in 2009. Her latest novel (published in 2013) is Americanah which has been garnering good literary acclaim.

Born in the town of Enugu, she grew up in the university town of Nsukka in southeastern Nigeria, where the University of Nigeria is situated. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half and during this period edited The Compass, a magazine run by the university’s Catholic medical students. She later left for the United States for further studies.

5. Onyeka Onwenu
Field: Arts/Music

onyeka onwenuOnyeka Onwenu may have won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a supporting role in 2006 but it is a music performer that she is well-known with a string of successful, award-winning music albums.

She is an accomplished singer and songwriter and was formerly chairperson of the Imo State Council for Arts and Culture. She is currently the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Women Development.

Onwenu bagged her first degree in International Relations & Communications from the Wellesley College of Massachusetts, USA and a Master’s Degree in Media Studies from The New School for Social Research in New York.

She kicked off her music career while still working with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). Some of her more memorable songs include; “In The Morning Light” “One Love” “For The Love of You” “Onyeka” “Greatest Love” “Wait for Me”

6. Justice Mary Odili
Field: Law/Legal

justice mary odiliJustice Mary U. Odili is one of the few most accomplished female legal personalities in Nigeria. The wife of former Rivers State Governor is a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Until June 2011 she was a Justice of the Court of Appeal first in Abuja and was later on transfered to Kaduna as the presiding justice of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna.

Aside her profession as a member of the bench she has also held various other positions including;

President, Marine Board of Inquiry into the 1979 Buguma Boat disaster (1985)
Inaugural Chairperson of the International Federal of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Rivers State branch from (1986-1988)
Secretary, Nigerian Horticultural Society (1986-1990)

7. Bukola Elemide (Asa)
Field: Arts/Music

Bukola Elemide aka Asa

Bukola Elemide aka Asa

Bukola Elemide (popularly known as Asa) is a Nigerian French singer-songwriter and recording artist. She was born in Paris, France to Nigerian parents. According to Wikipedia she was two years old when her family returned to live in Nigeria. Aṣa grew up in Alagbole, Lagos, in the south-western part of Nigeria.

Asa has quickly grown to become one of Nigeria’s most accomplished female musicians and has good following even outside the country. Some of her hit tracks include “Bibanke” “Jailer” “Eye Adaba” “Fire on the Mountain” from her first album “Asa” and “Preacher Man” “Dreamer Girl” “Be My Man” from the later “Beautiful Imperfection” album.

8. Toyin Adewale-Gabriel
Field: Arts/Writing

Toyin Adewale Gabriel

Toyin Adewale Gabriel

Toyin Adewale Gabriel received her MA Lit degree from Obafemi Awolowo University. She has worked as a literary critic for many Nigerian newspapers, among them The Guardian, Post Express and The Daily Times. She has won various awards for fiction and some of her works include; Naked Testimonies, Breaking the Silence, Die Aromaforscherin and Inkwell.

She co-founded and coordinated the Association of Writers of Nigeria for several years.





9. Deola Sagoe
Field: Fashion

Deola SagoeDeola Sagoe is a fashion designer from Ondo state. She studied at the University of Miami and the University of Lagos and began designing in 1998. She gained international notoriety for her lively, and colorful designs. Sagoe frequently exhibits her couture collection at Cape Town Fashion Week and has been an invited guest of New York Fashion Week in the past. Sagoe has won the “Africa Designs” and the MNET/ Anglo Gold African designs 2000 awards for which she was nominated by Andre Leon Tally, US Vogue editor. She has also has famous fans such as Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith.


10. Agbani Darego
Field: Modelling

Agbani DaregoAgbani Darego born Ibiagbanidokibubo Asenite Darego, is best known for being the first black African Miss World. Darego’s passion to be a top model was manifest in her teens as she entered for the M-Net Face of Africa modelling competition despite her father’s wishes. Though she failed to make it as a finalist she persisted and went on to be crowned Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) in 2001. In November of same year she went on to be crowned Miss World, the first black Sub-saharan African to achieve such feat (though past winners such as Penelope Coelen and Anneline Kriel are South African, they are of European descent, and Antigone Costanda, who represented Egypt in 1954 is of Greek heritage).

Shortly after her reign as Miss World she was represented by the London and Paris branches of Next Model Management and landed a three-year contact with L’Oréal, becoming only the second Black model to accomplish this feat after Vanessa Williams, and was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue. She has modelled for top brands including Avon, Christian Dior, Sephora, Macy’s and Target. She has appeared in many top magazines including Allure, Cosmopolitan, Trace, Stitch and Essence. Back home she has graced the covers of Complete Fashion, Thisday Style, Genevieve, True Love and TW Magazine. Darego has judged numerous pageants, and fashion and modelling competitions including Elite Model Look Nigeria 2012. This year she announced plans to launch a denim range.

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