Women in finance are a force to be reckoned with, breaking through barriers and shattering glass ceilings in an industry long dominated by men. One such woman is Tokunboh Ishmael, a trailblazer in finance with a career spanning over two decades.

Ishmael has made a name for herself in private equity, investment banking, and economic development and is recognized as one of the most influential women in Africa’s financial sector. In this article, we will look closer at Ishmael’s impressive career journey, highlighting her accomplishments, challenges, and insights that can inspire and empower women in finance and beyond.

Early Life and Education

Tokunboh Ishmael was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1968. She attended the prestigious Queen’s College, Lagos, for her secondary education and later studied economics at the London School of Economics (LSE). After completing her undergraduate degree, Ishmael earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School in 1994. Her education at these highly regarded institutions gave her a strong foundation for her future career in finance and investment.

First steps In finance: Internships and entry-level positions

After completing her education, Tokunboh Ishmael took her first steps into finance through internships and entry-level positions. She began her career as an investment banker at Salomon Brothers in New York and later worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company in London.


The rise to prominence of Tokunboh Ishmael in the finance industry has been nothing short of remarkable. With a career spanning several decades, Ishmael has amassed an impressive list of achievements and milestones that have cemented her reputation as a leading figure in finance.

One of her key achievements was leading the team that advised on selling a Nigerian oil block for $1.3 billion, one of the most significant transactions in Africa at the time. Additionally, she co-founded Alitheia Identity, a private equity fund focused on investing in women-owned or led businesses in Africa.

Through her innovative ideas and dedication, Ishmael has become a prominent figure in the finance industry and a role model for aspiring women in business. From her early beginnings as an intern and entry-level employee to her current position as a highly respected venture capitalist, Ishmael’s journey has been marked by hard work, determination, and a passion for excellence.


Tokunboh Ishmael faced several challenges as a woman in finance, particularly in a field that has historically been male-dominated. Women in finance have often faced biases and discrimination in the workplace, including unequal pay and limited opportunities for advancement.

Additionally, they often lack support and mentorship, making breaking through the industry’s proverbial “glass ceiling” difficult. Despite these challenges, Tokunboh Ishmael persevered and blazed a trail for other women in finance, using her experiences to inspire and empower others.

Here are some challenges that women in finance may face:

  • Gender bias and discrimination in the Workplace
  • Lack of female role models and mentors
  • Difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities
  • Unequal pay and opportunities for career advancement compared to male colleagues
  • Stereotypes and assumptions about women’s abilities in finance
  • Fewer networking opportunities compared to male colleagues
  • Lack of diversity in leadership positions within the finance industry
  • Pressure to conform to male-dominated workplace culture.

Philanthropic Ventures: Giving back to the community

Tokunboh Ishmael knows the importance of philanthropy to impact society positively, and she is an excellent example. Through various philanthropic endeavors, she has given back to the community. Her work in this area is a testament to her dedication to improving the world.

Furthermore, throughout her career, Tokunboh Ishmael has been involved in various philanthropic ventures, including supporting education, health, and entrepreneurship initiatives. Ishmael has also been active in promoting gender equality and empowering women in finance through mentorship programs and speaking engagements. Her commitment to making a positive impact on society serves as an inspiration to many.

Future goals and plans and career development

As a highly accomplished professional in the finance industry, Tokunboh Ishmael continues to strive for excellence and has set her sights on future career goals. She has expressed her desire to increase women’s financial representation and mentor the next generation of leaders. Tokunboh has also mentioned her interest in pursuing more board roles and investing in technology-driven businesses.

In addition to her career aspirations, Tokunboh is passionate about positively impacting the world. She plans to continue her philanthropic ventures and use her platform to empower women and youth through education and entrepreneurship.

With her drive, experience, and dedication, there is no doubt that Tokunboh Ishmael will continue to make significant contributions to the finance industry and beyond.

Advice for aspiring women in finance 

As a successful woman in finance, Tokunboh Ishmael has gained valuable experience and insights throughout her career. She is a true trailblazer who has overcome challenges and achieved remarkable success in her field. Here are some lessons learned and advice from Tokunboh that can inspire and guide aspiring women in finance:

  1. Believe in Yourself: One of the most critical lessons Tokunboh has learned is to believe in yourself and your abilities. Self-confidence is essential to success in any career, but it is vital in finance, where women are still underrepresented.
  2. Persevere Through Challenges: Tokunboh has faced many challenges in her career, but she did not let them discourage her. Instead, she persevered and used each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  3. Find Mentors and Role Models: Mentors and role models are crucial for career development. They can provide valuable guidance, advice, and support, especially for women in finance who may face unique challenges.
  4. Be Open to New Opportunities: Tokunboh advises aspiring women in finance to be open to new opportunities and experiences. You never know where a unique opportunity may lead or what you may learn from it.
  5. Give Back to the Community: Tokunboh believes in the importance of giving back to the community, and she has been involved in various philanthropic ventures throughout her career. Aspiring women in finance can also find ways to use their skills and expertise to impact the world positively.

Tokunboh Ishmael’s career journey is a shining example for women in finance. Her valuable lessons and advice can inspire and guide aspiring women to achieve success in this dynamic and rewarding field.

Tokunboh Ishmael’s Impact 

Tokunboh Ishmael’s Impact on the Finance Industry in Africa is a topic that highlights the contributions and achievements of Tokunboh Ishmael in shaping the finance industry on the African continent. From her early career in finance to her rise to prominence, Tokunboh has left an indelible mark on the industry through her dedication to creating investment opportunities and supporting entrepreneurship.

Her impact has been felt in various sectors, including private equity, venture capital, and impact investing. Tokunboh Ishmael played several roles in transforming the finance industry in Africa. She co-founded and served as the Managing Director of Alitheia Capital, a leading private equity fund focused on investing in high-growth businesses that empower women and their communities.

Additionally, she served on the boards of several financial institutions and organizations, including the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and the African Venture Capital Association. Through her leadership and dedication, Ishmael has significantly impacted the finance industry in Africa.


In conclusion, Tokunboh Ishmael is an accomplished woman in finance who has significantly impacted Africa’s finance industry. From her early beginnings in finance to rising to prominence and giving back to the community through philanthropic ventures, she has faced and overcome numerous challenges.

Her advice and lessons learned offer valuable insight for aspiring women in finance, and her career continues to inspire and transform the industry. With her visionary leadership and impressive track record, Ishmael will remain a prominent figure in the finance world for years.

Meet Damilola

Damilola Ogunbiyi was born in 1975 in Nigeria. She grew up in Ibadan and was raised by her mother, a schoolteacher. Ogunbiyi completed her secondary education at the International School, Ibadan, before proceeding to the University of Ilorin, where she studied Electrical and Electronics Engineering.

Her leadership and advocacy have helped bring sustainable energy to rural communities in Nigeria and beyond. Her work to promote women in STEM and energy has inspired countless others to follow in her footsteps. In this article, we will explore the rise of Damilola Ogunbiyi and the impact she has made in renewable energy.

Early Life And Education Of Damilola Ogunbiyi 

In 1975, Damilola Ogunbiyi was born in Nigeria and raised in Ibadan by her mother. Before enrolling at the University of Ilorin, Ogunbiyi attended the International School, Ibadan, where she studied Electrical and Electronics Engineering.

She later obtained a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Her educational background in engineering and public administration laid the foundation for her career in the energy sector.

The Rise Of Damilola Ogunbiyi’s Energy Sector

In addition to driving sustainable development and expanding access to clean, reliable energy in Africa, Damilola Ogunbiyi is also a trailblazer in that field. With extraordinary leadership, innovation, and passion, her rise to prominence in energy access has been remarkable.

Ogunbiyi has held several positions, including being the CEO of the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency, UN Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All, and Manager of the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency.

She has contributed significantly to promoting renewable energy, carbon reductions, and gender equality in the energy sector through her leadership. She continues to inspire and motivate young energy leaders to pursue their dreams.

Role as UN Special Representative for Sustainable Energy


Impact At The Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency

As CEO of the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency, Damilola Ogunbiyi made significant contributions to the energy sector, driving initiatives to increase energy access in rural communities across Nigeria.

Her leadership, dedication, and innovative approach characterized her impact at the agency to implement sustainable energy solutions.

Over 1000 rural electrification projects have been developed due to Ogunbiyi’s work, affecting millions of lives and businesses. In the energy sector, her legacy continues to inspire others. The Rise of Damilola Ogunbiyi showcases her unwavering commitment to ensuring Nigeria and beyond access to clean, affordable energy.

Role As UN Special Representative for Sustainable Energy 

During her UN Special Representative role for Sustainable Energy, Damilola Ogunbiyi helped drive global efforts toward achieving sustainable energy. As a result of her appointment in 2019, she immediately seized the opportunity to promote renewable and affordable energy solutions.

Through her tenure, Ogunbiyi developed and implemented policies and programs to expand access to sustainable energy in underserved communities in collaboration with governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders. She helped raise awareness of sustainable energy and mobilized resources to support initiatives in countries across Africa and beyond.

The Rise of Damilola Ogunbiyi as the UN Special Representative for Sustainable Energy expands her visionary leadership and unwavering commitment to promoting sustainable development.


As a champion for gender equality, Damilola Ogunbiyi has strongly advocated for women’s participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and the energy sector. Through her leadership positions, Ogunbiyi has worked tirelessly to promote gender diversity and inclusion in the industry and has actively encouraged women to pursue careers in STEM-related fields.

She believes empowering women and girls is crucial to achieving sustainable development and ending poverty. She has made it a priority to create opportunities for women in the energy sector.

At the 2018 Africa Energy Forum, Ogunbiyi won the Global Fairness Award and Women’s Economic Empowerment Award for her advocacy efforts. The inspirational work of her is an inspiration to female STEM and energy leaders and reinforces the importance of promoting gender equality.

Recognition And Awards For Damilola Ogunbiyi Work  

Damilola Ogunbiyi’s impressive achievements in the energy sector have not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by her numerous awards and accolades. Several international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the African Development Bank, have recognized her work.

Ogunbiyi has been named one of Fortune’s 50 Greatest World Leaders and honored with the African Power, Energy & Water Industry Award for outstanding contribution to the sector. In addition, she was recognized as one of the 100 most influential Africans by New African Magazine in 2019.

For Sustainable Energy Under Ogunbiyi’s Leadership  

Under Damilola Ogunbiyi’s leadership, the future of sustainable energy in Africa looks promising. Ogunbiyi has been a strong advocate for expanding access to clean energy sources and has worked to promote the adoption of renewable energy technologies across the continent.

Through her leadership roles at the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, she has implemented innovative programs and initiatives to increase energy access in rural communities, promote clean energy solutions, and foster sustainable development.

Ogunbiyi has also been instrumental in promoting private sector investment in the energy sector, creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs and businesses, and driving economic growth. Her vision for sustainable energy in Africa emphasizes the importance of community engagement and empowerment and the need for a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach to achieve sustainable development goals.

Under Ogunbiyi’s leadership, sustainable energy is set to drive development and progress in Africa.


As a trailblazer for women in renewable energy, Damilola Ogunbiyi has achieved remarkable success in the energy sector.

Also, she has contributed to the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency and Sustainable Energy for All Initiative by providing sustainable energy. In her vision of sustainable energy for Africa, Ogunbiyi’s leadership will undoubtedly shape its future.

Aspiring leaders can learn valuable lessons from Ogunbiyi’s journey, including the importance of education, perseverance, and advocating for marginalized communities. Ogunbiyi’s work has shown that positive change in the energy sector is possible with determination and a commitment to sustainability.

Your voice can be described in different ways, the most common definition is the sound the is being produced when you speak or sing, however, your voice could also be what your opinions are and how you are perceived. It isn’t just the sound but the message embedded in the sound of your voice.

In the corporate world, a career or professional voice may be described as how this message being conveyed in the sound of your voice can be of benefit to its owner.

This article will therefore highlight what you need to know about your professional voice and it’s applications.

The professional voice

Finding a professional voice is the first step in categorising your voice for the workplace. It provides you with the ability to have your personal voice which you use in informal meetings, gatherings or places and still be able to switch to your business or professional voice when necessary. (This improves your social and professional identity). The importance of having a professional voice is that it makes you credible, authentic, organized and it gets you coordinated for a presentation, job interview, business meeting, as well as impromptu meetings. It could be developed by using appropriate words or sentences, having a stable and comfortable pitch or speaking with a comfortable pace. Developing a Professional Voice will improve your ability to engage, connect & persuade when communicating to internal & external audiences. The Professional Voice gives you the confidence, techniques & skills to deliver your message effectively & achieve results. Based on my experience and research in social identity complexity (as related to the work place especially when an individual has various roles) one of the ways to categorize your identity is to develop these professional voices;

The unapologetic voice

The unapologetic voice enables you stand your ground against all odds in a meaningful yet respectful manner. The unapologetic voice make you voice out your values and beliefs in order to set boundaries. Finding this voice gives you confidence in your beliefs and helps you communicate in effectively. This does not mean you have to be rude, it is just being able to know what your values are, what you can and can’t do and being able to say it out and not keep it within you because if you do, you will be able to tolerate anything which may not be healthy.

The appealing voice

When it comes to finding the right tone to ask for a favour, we may all seem to have it but have you ever thought of that tone being misleading? The best way to go about it is by being straightforward about what favour you need and also concentrate on asking for the favour with more percentage of your voice rather than your body language. So, how is that done? With a softer tone and pleasant words (please, can you, I will be grateful, thank you, I’d really appreciate if you could.. ) these words help in conveying a direct message.

The approachable voice

Many people struggle to maintain a good first impression but what about a lasting impression? Your approachable voice should make others feel comfortable to have a discussion with you without having to think of how they might need to please you first. Using words like Hello, it is a pleasure meeting you, how may I help you,  lastly, having your concentration on the person you are communicating with and not being distracted by your PHONE.

Leadership voice:

As a leader, your major goal will be to get your followers to work together to achieve a common goal. Over the years, leaders have adopted various styles that can enable them achieve this fundamental goal. These leadership styles therefore can be seen as either an active voice or a passive voice.

Active voice: participating and coaching style is when a leader is actively engaging in the duties of the team either by joining in working with the team or helping the followers overcome the obstacles and challenges they are faced with by coaching them.

Passive voice: directing and delegating style. This style involves the leader assigning duties to each of the team members. Usually, leaders start by being actively involved in the teamwork and when the leader feels they are ready to work on their own, the passive voice is used to direct and delegate.

Remember, your voice is most effect when the message in the sound of your voice is unambiguous, clear and concise.


About Grace

Grace Asemota is a Business Psychologist (M.Sc) and a Certified Life Coach. She has partnered with Organizations and solopreneurs to grow their personal and professional brands and has coached students and staff in different institutions and organisations.

She continuously coaches and trains on the importance of goal setting, happiness, team management, personal development and self- confidence in a wide range of organisations (in Nigeria, UAE and US) and institutions by motivating staff to develop a collaborative culture and identify key factors that can enhance personal growth.

You can get in touch with her on


LinkedIn @Grace Asemota-Orisakiya