I come from a humble background, having spent the majority of my childhood in Central Kenya. As I grew up in years, my love for education grew as well. With the support of a father who was an educator, I embarked upon a career journey that is both beautiful and challenging.
I am utterly grateful to the Almighty for giving me a brilliant mind, which helped me get into one of the top public universities in Kenya. Even though I had always wanted to get a degree in science, I studied economics in college. I was discouraged but later ended up falling in love with it. I went on to pursue CFA and became the third woman in Kenya to hold charterholder status in 2008. An event was organized in honor of me being the only graduate that year, with newspapers describing me as “A Woman of Excellence.” Even today, it feels surreal.
I always felt that because I was physically petite compared to those around me, I had to make my presence known by my voice, become larger than life, and be noticed. When I started as a journalist, there weren’t any mentors for me to look up to because of the lack of Asian journalists at that time. As they say, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” I did not let it deter me, though. I used my strength and imagination to make it in the field of journalism. Being an Asian woman posed its challenges, but those challenges shaped me into who I am today.
I worked with CNN and was really grateful for the opportunity and all I learned there. But I needed a little bit more, and I decided to combine that experience with the creative side of journalism. I wanted to make a difference in the world and that catapulted me to start my entrepreneurial journey. I started my own production company, Lotus Media House, and created my first talk show, The May Lee Show. It was the first of its kind in Asia as it focused on women and their journeys. I started it because I wanted to do something about the lack of representation of women in the community. I tried to speak to the women of Asia, who never had a chance to speak out and be independent.
It was a big undertaking with many challenges, but now that I reflect back, I learned a lot from it. I never listened to the naysayers and denied any negativity around me. I believed in myself, my vision, and the women’s stories waiting to be told.
Women and young girls are programmed throughout their lives to learn that they are not good enough; that they will never be as good as men. This affects how we all think and behave in the workplace. We don’t believe we are good enough and never try to negotiate our pay or demand better. We women undervalue ourselves and our abilities when in reality, we often can do the same things as men equally well—if not better. Women need to support each other and help each other gain confidence. We have to do it for ourselves because we deserve better.
When I was featured on the Forbes “50 over 50” list, I was not happy just because I got recognition. I was happy because it struck me that what a 50-year-old woman does matters. What society tells us about becoming obsolete once we reach a certain age does not apply anymore. If we want, we can change it. It is common to see women going through the stress of age in a way men never have to go through because their life never comes to a stop. It is refreshing to see women and their work getting recognition irrespective of their age.
I’ve covered a lot of events all over the world in my career but never have I seen so much happening at the same time. Neither have I seen the youngsters trying to make a difference with such vigor. When I see it, it gives me a lot of hope. Life is not easy but the reward of doing something like this is great.
It is vital to find a purpose that will not only fulfill you but also make a difference in other people’s lives. There is so much negativity in the world, now more than ever, and we need to do something positive. Always remember, there is power in being vulnerable. Vulnerability should not be seen as a weakness; it is important to be honest with yourself. Be fearless and have gratitude. Leave a legacy and make your life worth it.