Charge d’Affaires Yael Lempert US Embassy
A bit about Yael’s professional background:
- Yael was awarded the National Security Council’s Outstanding Service Award in 2017
- Yael is currently the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in London.
- From 2015 – 2017 Yael served as a Special Assistant to then President Obama.
Hearing Yael speak was a true honor. Yael was incredibly candid, empowering and the experiences she discussed, I’m sure, will resonate with many women. If you missed the talk, here are 3 messages:
“Don’t give up, keep persisting”
Yael is no quitter! She spoke of personal and professional setbacks she had experienced throughout her life but she advocated to “never give up”. For instance, Yael was really interested in becoming a diplomat and serving in the Middle East. On passing the incredibly difficult diplomat exam, she was placed in China, not the Middle East. Whilst Yael served in Shanghui, she applied for numerous jobs and was rejected from all of them. She never gave up and kept persisting until she did eventually land her dream job.
Another experience was when she didn’t apply to be Special Assistant to President Obama. Another diplomat suggested she apply as she would be great. She explained “Don’t doubt yourself and put yourself down”. She knew in her heart that she had suitable experience and was a great candidate. “Don’t take yourself out of the race, if you don’t put yourself in the arena, then you’ll never get it”.
You may have heard the statistic, “Men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the qualifications but women wait until they meet 100% of the qualifications”. This statistic comes from a Hewlett Packard internal report. Confidence may be part of the reason; however, the underlying reasons are more complicated (read the link at the bottom of this article for a good discussion). It was surprising to met to hear of an accomplished woman like Yael did not apply and fantastic that she shared this so other women do not let their trepidations hold them back from their ambitions.
“Would a man do that?”
Yael spoke of when she was applying to be the Deputy Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem. She was pregnant at this time and felt compelled to tell her potential boss. She asked herself “Would a man do this?”. Being pregnant wasn’t going to affect her ability to do the job. She highlighted that occurrences like this optimise the struggles women face. “There’s an unconscious bias to you” she explained, and eloquently described how this shouldn’t hold women back.
Yale has faced much discrimination throughout her career and this leads nicely on to her next nugget of wisdom.
“Don’t let anyone give you any crap”
Whilst in Shanghui, Yael thought her boss was interested in her work because she was passionate and hard working. It became quite clear what his real motive was. When she didn’t accept his advances, he retorted “Nobody is going to listen to you, they’ll just be looking at your legs”. This affected her for a while but she came to the conclusion, “Just because a man may do that, it doesn’t mean that I’m not smart and capable. People will take me seriously and what I wear won’t affect that”. She explained that this experience taught her to be really straight forward.
Yael is married to another diplomat. It was refreshing to hear her speak about the persistent challenge she faces to find a healthy work life balance. For instance, her husband was offered an amazing job in Libya. This meant that she had to take an “okay” job that she wasn’t initially enthusiastic about (this turned out to be amazing for her though!).
Another example of work life balance was when there was a crisis at work and so had to take a work call, however, her daughter was screaming and needed to be held by her mother. She felt guilty and apologized profusely. Her colleague said, don’t worry and understood. This experience taught her to “Let water roll off your back”. She also professed to always “Keep your eyes on the prize. Let challenges motivate you rather than corrode you”.
A woman in a high-pressured role can be an asset. A prime example, currently during the covid-19 pandemic, countries led by female leaders have managed the COVID-19 crisis better than male leaders (see The Guardian article linked below for more information on this).
Her last piece of advice – something that every person needs to hear from time to time:
“You don’t’ have to prove anything to anybody else apart from yourself”.