Yolanda Lee, Founder and CEO at Uncommon

Yolanda Lee, Founder and CEO at Uncommon

  • Yolanda Lee, is the founder and CEO of Uncommon, a platform where the world’s top female talent come to connect and level up.




Yolanda Lee, is the founder and CEO of Uncommon, a platform where the world’s top female talent come to connect and level up. And interestingly, she has lived and worked in every single continent, with the exception of South America.

00:51-Tell us about your journey to almost all the continents and some of your learnings.

  • Born in Toronto, Canada, Lee traveled across the UK and Europe for higher education.
  • For her grad school research she went to Kenya
  • She started her career with the German startup incubator called Rocket Internet, and moved to West Africa. And, worked across West Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana
  • Then she joined Uber in Kenya and South Africa and then eventually moved to Southeast Asia, working for Deliveroo an Amazon-backed startup that does free food delivery.

03:00- What made you become an entrepreneur?

  • She always had that dream of building her own company.
  • With working in early-stage tech companies, she had the experience of building a company from the ground up.
  • She got to a point where she had the appetite for risk and where she was ready to take up a leap.
  • She saw a problem that she had experienced firsthand. And, had the confidence to go out and build her own company.

03:47-  Tell me about Uncommon and your motivation to start it.

  • Uncommon was born out of her own experience as a female leader, in tech companies.
  • She realized that women start to disappear at more senior levels.
  • It’s hard to find other women who really understand what you’re going through and are at that level of seniority.
  • In simple terms, Uncommon is a private network built for senior female leaders. They are on a mission to see more women making decisions and in those decision-making positions, just 8% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO.
  • They work with women before they drop off the leadership pipeline. So Senior managers to Vice President levels.
  • Uncommon equips them with an inner circle, a personal Advisory Board, group coaching, and a variety of kind of workshops and community activities as well.

05:22- Why have you restricted it to women?

  • For senior women, there’s a unique set of kind of challenges that they face, and Uncommon tries to solve them in a focused way.
  • She believes, that if we try to be everything to everyone, then we’re nothing to no one. So, Uncommon tries to make people feel like they belong keeping in mind that there is a deep human need for connection and belonging.
  • They target, the largest demographic of underserved workers in the world, which are women who, for a variety of reasons, don’t really feel like they belong, always among the most senior positions.

06:22- What are some of the challenges that senior women leaders face?

  • There’s a kind of range of issues that female leaders face. One is that they lack role models. Not having anyone to look up to makes it hard for them to follow a playbook.
  • The second-biggest challenge is that the workplaces we live in are not designed to support women with the stage of life where they would like to start a family.

08:22- How important is networking, professionally and personally?

  • Networking is incredibly important because the best network is a constellation of opportunities.
  • According to LinkedIn, women have nearly 40%, weaker networks. Weak networks, create fewer opportunities and fewer opportunities impact economic outcomes for individuals, companies, and society at large, as well.
  • There is an old adage around, that it’s not what you know, but who you know, and that becomes increasingly more important.

12:42-  How much is actually happening on the ground regarding inclusion?

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion cover a range, of channels. Uncommon focuses particularly on gender diversity and inclusion.
  • There are more professional working women than there ever have been in history. There are more women graduating from university, and women starting businesses.
  • But the flip side is the gap in earnings between men and women has narrowed substantially over the past decades, but progress has slowed lately, and women working full time still earn about 17% lower for the same job.

14:30- How do we remove biases within society and businesses?

  • A good place to start is by acknowledging that we all have biases.
  • Second thing is to acknowledge the fact that workplaces are still largely based on the structure from the industrial revolution, designed for cisgender heterosexual men clocking in at nine and clocking out at five.
  • It really makes a lot of sense for the assembly line, but less for the kind of service economy that we currently live in.
  • We’re in the midst of the greatest upheaval of the workplace since the post-war period when we saw kind of women enter the workplace in mass.
  • This means we can design a more inclusive workplace which means, everyone learning to be comfortable with differences.

20:07- How do culture impact diversity, equity, and inclusion?

  • The level of discrimination and oppression can really differ from country to country, culture to culture.
  • She believes, that humans have so much more in common than what divides them.
  • And that’s definitely one thing she has learned from living in, in a lot of different countries.
  • And everywhere humans are learning how to hold space for that difference, and this is what’s going to take us to the next level.

22:02- What would your advice be to a young woman starting off on her journey, in the corporate world or as an entrepreneur?

  • Firstly, always negotiate your first offer.
  • Secondly, from the beginning, think about building, an advisory board for yourself, think about where you want to be.
  • Build your Network. LinkedIn is an incredible resource for this, she is impressed by how many young people reach out to her.


You can connect with Yolanda Lee- on LinkedIn

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  • Yolanda Lee, is the founder and CEO of Uncommon, a platform where the world’s top female talent come to connect and level up.
  • She has lived and worked in every single continent, with the exception of South America.

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