What does Empowering Women in Industry mean to you?
It’s about living truthfully, authentically and courageously in the life that I have and taking all of my experiences over the years…both good and bad…and sharing as much of myself as I can with genuine purpose. To be able to have an impact on others, especially women and girls, and empower them to embrace their true identity and the strength of that identity, is both humbling and thrilling. Women’s abilities can be limitless if they are just given the encouragement, support and space to live out their real purpose.
How did you get started in your field?
Since I was young, I thought I was going to be a doctor, even though I was terrible at math and science. After many years of struggling academically, I had an “ah-ha” moment sophomore year in college when I realized that what I was truly drawn to was writing, public speaking, and the visual media. That’s when a voice said to me that I needed to be a broadcast journalist. It was very much a divine experience. From that moment on, I focused on getting internships at TV stations, which led to an entry level job as a production assistant and then after sending over 60 resumes and tapes around the country at a time when anti-Japanese sentiment was exploding due to Japan’s influence in the U.S., I finally landed my first reporting job for a small station in Redding, CA. I’m grateful to Calvin Hunter, the news director at that station, who was willing to give me a shot. That was the beginning of a long career as a broadcast journalist that has taken me around the world working for news outlets including NHK, CNN, CNBC, and Oxygen Media.
What do you love most about your job? What are you most proud of?
Being a journalist satiates my constant curiosity about everything! It gives me permission to dig into issues and topics, meet fascinating people and, most importantly, inform and educate through storytelling. The impact that good journalism can have can be tremendous and that’s why it’s so important to support press freedom and great journalistic endeavors. I have been a journalist for more than 30 years and I still love what I do. One thing I’m most proud of is that I’ve always stayed the course as a journalist, meaning, I started this career with the intention of being a storyteller focused on helping to convey information and facts as well as giving voice to the voiceless. It’s never been about me and I’ve never done this work to be in the spotlight or become a “celebrity”. My focus has always been to stay humble, hungry, curious and courageous. After more than 30 years, I think I’ve stayed on track. A more recent achievement that I’m proud of is being named as one of Forbes 50 Over 50 honorees. I, along with 49 other women, were placed on the 50 Over 50 Impact list for “changing their communities and the world in ways big and small through social entrepreneurship, law, advocacy and education.” Forbes recognized my work advocating for Asian and AAPI issues worldwide through my show, “The May Lee Show.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and racism and xenophobia against Asians increased, I pivoted the focus of my show and social media content to raise awareness, push back on Anti-Asian Hate and elevate Asian voices.
What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work?
You really, truly need to have a deep desire to commit yourself to real journalism, and that means being challenged mentally, physically, and emotionally at times. Don’t go into this business if you think it’s glamorous or you’re seeking fame. A journalist is about bringing news and information to the public, as well as bringing attention to people and issues that may not have the power to be heard and seen. And activism is another level of commitment that isn’t for the faint of heart. This kind of work is driven by an intense mission to serve a purpose and more often than not, activists are unsung heroes who do their work under the radar because it’s not about fame or fortune…it’s about making a positive impact.
It may be 2022, but we still have A LOT of work to do when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, and for women and girls around the world, their voices need to be heard and respected. Only then will we truly see and experience progress and empowerment!