Where I'm From, What I do, and What It Means For You

Where I'm From, What I do, and What It Means For You


If you're reading this, you might be wondering, who is this Jamie Lee? Where does she come from? What's her story?

If so, then you've come to the right place. 

In this episode, I get personal and tell you where I'm from (South Korea), how I made the decision to become a coach for women, and what it means for you. 

Then I wrap it up with some baller ladybrags. Enjoy! 

Full episode transcript: 

Hello! Welcome to the seventh episode of Born to Thrive with Jamie Lee. I am your host, Jamie. I work as a coach, speaker, trainer. I believe that we are all born to thrive. No matter where you were born, what color, what creed, what sexual orientation, what gender orientation, we are all born to thrive.

I work primarily with women, and yesterday I did a post about the fear of seeming like bragging too much that a lot of women clients tell me they have, and I shared the Bullish Society culture of bragging. Bullish Society tweeted back at me, and they were kind to let me know that the official name for this is called “baller ladybrags.” I love that. Baller ladybrag. What is your baller ladybrag today? I will share mine at the end of the podcast episode.

Today I want to talk to you about me. I want to tell you a little bit about me. Why do I do this? Where do I come from? And what does it mean for you?

I was born in South Korea. I’m 36, so I was born in South Korea 36 years ago, and my mother had three daughters. This had the unfortunate consequence of causing suffering, because Korea is very much a patrilineal society. It’s a fancy word for meaning they prioritize sons over girls, because sons get to inherit the wealth of the family, the family line, the family name. Girls don’t. Girls get married off. 

My mother suffered. She literally suffered. She was beat up a few times by my father’s family. She was not treated well. When I was eight, we immigrated to America, and then my mother basically raised the three of us by herself after she divorced my father in America. 

She ran a nail salon, and she managed to put a roof over our heads, she managed to put all three of us through college. She speaks English a little bit worse than Margaret Cho’s mother. I’m not really good at accents, but if you’re familiar with Margaret Cho, it’s a thick accent. But she did it. All by herself. 

When I was growing up, my mother always complained about money. If you grew up in a single-parent home where money was kind of tight, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s rough, and you make do with what you have. And children absorb all of this. I absorbed all of this. My response to this was, “Well, you know what? I don’t like money. You’re always complaining about money. You don’t care about me. You’re not here for me. It’s just money, money, money, money, money. I don’t want money!” I remember saying that out loud to my mother. It hurt her so, so much. 

And now I work as a negotiation coach helping women become bolder, braver and better paid. Because this experience taught me a really valuable lesson: that women are capable of doing great things. We support families, we support networks, we support communities. In fact, the Clinton Global Institute does global-wide research, and they found that when women make money, they invest 90% of their income back into their families and communities, whereas men only invest 45%. So my mother was a classic example of that.

And then I went to Smith College, where it’s all women, and I again saw that women are so capable. Women are able to do all the things that we want to do if we put our minds to it, if we come together and support each other. That was the big lesson that I learned. I remember carrying furniture up four flights of stairs with four other Smith women. We didn’t need men to help us move furniture or do hard things. Smith College is one of the very first, I think it is the only women’s college to have a women’s only engineering department. So, yeah, it had a really big impact on me, and it really instilled the feminist ideals inside of me, you could say that. 

Then I got into the real world after college, and then I was hit with the reality of what it is to work for a patriarchal society that is still here in America. So, my very first job, I worked as a receptionist at a government organization.

It was an international government organization that was going to build a nuclear power plant in North* Korea (*In the podcast, I made the mistake of saying "South Korea." My bad). For reals. For peace, not for war. This was something that was agreed upon during President Clinton’s administration. It’s called KEDO. It’s now defunct, no surprise there, right?

In any case, I went there, and I was so full of hope and ideals, as I still am, but all the diplomats were men. All the support staff were women. One of the things that the Korean diplomats asked me to do - he saw this Korean girl - and he’s like, “Oh, you’re gonna come support me, and every day I want you to bring me a cup of coffee diluted with hot water.”

And I remember walking, going from the kitchen to the South Korean diplomat’s office with this coffee in my hand and hating it. Really hating it, I mean. That was an interesting experience. Again I saw, wait, all the power, all the decision-making powers are with men here. And that didn’t really sit well with me.

And then the next job I worked for a South Korean company, because I speak Korean, and I had some experience with this organization that was going to build a power plant in North Korea. This is a really big South Korean conglomerate called Doosan, and they build power plants, desalination plants, that are big infrastructure that turn saltwater into drinkable water.

Again, all the managers, men. Flown in from South Korea. And the South Korean flavor of patriarchy is like this: if he’s the older male, it means that he knows best. He just does. And he just deserves all your respect. You obey. You submit. I hate using that word, but it’s true. I lasted about ten months there.

It was not a good fit for me, as you can imagine, and it really hit home for me that I had to leave when one day I was working late, filing all these papers. I was working as a buyer, negotiating with American vendors on behalf of the Korean company. And then one day, out of the blue, I get a call. It’s 5pm. I get a call from a South Korean manager, and he just rings up my phone and then he says “What the hell are you doing?! You’re doing a terrible job!” And then, click. He hangs up.

To this day, I don’t know who this man was, I just know that he was from South Korea, so he was probably a manager. And I don’t know what needed improvement. There was no dialogue, there was no discussion. It was just like, “You’re bad.” Click. And that kind of really drove home for me that this was not a good culture fit for me.

I had another job where I worked for a women-founded American company, and I realized, “Wow! The culture is so much better. I really like this! It’s a great fit.” But I kind of stalled in learning and growing, so I worked at a hedge fund.

Again, this hedge fund was founded by a Korean guy. I think the common theme here is, for me, don’t work for companies founded by Korean patriarchs. But in any case, again, I encountered kind of a toxic experience where all the men made the decisions. I was the only woman at the trading desk.

What is the definition of toxic? I gave a talk on this at The Wing the other week.  It’s self-poisoning. And I started to feel the poisoning emotionally, mentally, physically, going there and listening to these guys talk and joke and not having a voice, not being respected. I had to go. I just had to go. 

One day I read this article in The New York Times about this group of women investors who invest only in women-founded companies. They saw the problem: women-founded startups don’t get VC funding, even to this day. It was only about like 6% of women-founded companies, in the latest article I saw, only 6% get VC funding.

There’s a great need for funding for these women-founded companies, and this company, this little company called Golden Seeds, decided to provide the solution. They were a group of women accredited investors, and they decided to pull together and do due diligence and do angel investing only in women-founded startups.

When I read about them I thought, “Wow. This is the group that I want to be aligned with. This is the kind of people I want to be associated with. This is who I want to become. Because I know the pain of being the woman, the only woman, in a male-dominated workplace. I know the pain of being a girl in patriarchy. I know the pain of being overlooked, ignored, discriminated against. And I want to be part of the solution. I don’t want to sit and be a victim anymore.”

So I wrote to them. They didn’t have the wherewithal to pay me a salary, but I did an unpaid internship, and it changed my life. It gave me connections to other women investors who later gave me job opportunities, and the job opportunities led to me working for startups, and then when I started working at startups that’s when I started thinking, “Hey! You know, I have some entrepreneurial ideas. I can teach. I can speak. I love to give back to the community.” And then when I thought about what is the thing that I can give back, it’s what I’m doing now. It’s helping women find their voice. It’s helping women shine. It’s helping women thrive on their own terms. And it’s helping women advocate for the value they bring.

What does this mean for you? The lesson that I am trying to live through my work is to walk the talk I give. I talk about confidence. I talk about advocacy. I talk about believing in ourselves. I talk about being proactive. I talk about leading by example. I talk about speaking and acting from a sense of purpose.

And I try to live this every day. It’s important because we need change, right? We need to press for progress. Time is up. Those are all the trendy hashtags lately around this topic of women and gender equality. We need to close the gender wage gap.

But it starts with you. That’s when I realized that it starts with me, and I needed to take action and live what I wanted to see in the world that things started to change, things started to turn around for me. For you, that means it starts with you. It’s not enough for us to wait around, be angry. It’s time for us to live the change, to walk the talk that we give.

This is kind of a long episode and I should wrap this up with a baller ladybrag. I love that. Baller. Ladybrag. It’s confusing. Baller? Isn’t that masculine? Ladybrag? Does that even make sense? I don’t care. We’re doing it. Baller ladybrag.

I have three! Number one: A recent client of mine, I helped her negotiate her salary. She just got promoted to director level, but her salary, they were like “Oh, our budget is small, blah blah blah.” They were giving her these passive-aggressive excuses. So, we worked on a custom strategy/action-plan/script. Her result: 44% increase in salary. 44%. That’s nearly double what she was making.

And on top of that, she got equity, and she found out that not all directors get equity. So she got an even more fluffier icing on the cake, if you will. I just made that up.

Number two: I wrote a script based on this experience to share with more people. I thought there was just so much value I couldn’t keep it to myself. It’s called “How to Ask For A Big Pay Raise.” And I shared it with my network. Somebody used it to negotiate a pay raise, and her result? She got a 9% increase in salary. That’s pretty baller. 9%. It’s like double of the cost of living adjustment which is about, or less than 5%. So that’s pretty baller. I love it.

Number three: I told you I gave a speaker’s workshop at the UN, and I just got feedback that the women that I coached over the weekend got to give their speeches at the UN, and their speeches were better. You could see the impact of our work together. So this makes me really proud, this really makes me feel good, and this gives me more drive to continue to grow, to continue to thrive.

So, I wish you well today, and I wish you a thriving day. See you tomorrow!

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