“Lareina Yee.” One Google search of her name finds you knee-deep in an ocean of impressive media: “global leader,” advisor of “high tech corporate strategy,” videos of Yee speaking about women in positions of leadership, pieces of her writing published in The Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review. It’s not just Google that says so. Yee, Class of 1995, is just as impressive in real life.
A senior partner at the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Yee spearheads the development of new market strategies/models for tech companies, specializing in sales transformations and growth initiatives. She also is the firm’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, and on top of all that, she is the mother of three young boys.
The rigor of her career echoes the ambitious academic life she led at Barnard. Yee participated in the joint-degree program with the School of International and Public Affairs, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. She started taking graduate-level classes in international affairs as a senior while serving as the president of the Student Government Association. “I loved spending my senior year mostly in grad school. I felt like I was learning so much.” Now at McKinsey, she finds an appealing parallel: “It’s similar to Barnard — an enormous platform to grow and learn new things all the time.”
This is not the only part of her job, however, that contains a strain of Barnard. In 2011, Yee launched a research project in collaboration with The Wall Street Journal and LeanIn.org, examining the extent to which women are advancing in business. She cites a few statistics off the top of her head: “One in five C-Suite executives is a woman, and 1 in 25 is a woman of color. You can’t work in business, as a woman, and not know this. You experience it every day.” Her work reflects her desire to strengthen women’s empowerment, a cause she became passionate about at Barnard and that bonds the Barnard community together. “It’s in my DNA,” she says.
Yee is still in touch with Dorothy Denburg, who served as Dean of the College for 17 of her 40 years at Barnard. “She was a role model (for me)” as an academic and as a working mother. Without Denburg’s inspiration, Yee never would have imagined taking on the career she has today with a full family. She says she’s learned over time, “Take it step by step and figure it out.”
Yee’s ties to Barnard run deeper still. Two of her three children have godmothers who were friends of Yee’s at Barnard. “You never know if someone you work with on a school activity will become a lifelong friend.” Yee also met her husband, Bert Galleno, while at Barnard — he was a student at Columbia College at the time. “Bert proposed to me on the steps of Low Library. Columbia is a special place for us.”
Ultimately, Yee credits her years at Barnard as “an incredible time of exploration.” She remembers thinking when she was a student, “We can do anything we want.” And that seems to be exactly what she did.
Asha Meagher is an intern at Barnard Magazine.