“There is no greater multiplier in the fight against poverty than an educated female.”
—Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
An intrepid chronicler of strong and resourceful women, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield and The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, the story of a young entrepreneur who supported her community under the Taliban.
Lemmon began her career as a journalist in Washington. From 1997 to 2004, she covered presidential politics and public policy issues for the ABC News Political Unit. She also served as an editorial producer during the first year of This Week with George Stephanopoulos. In 2004, she left ABC News to pursue her interest in international development and earn her MBA from Harvard. While serving as a vice president at the global investment management firm PIMCO, she began reporting from conflict regions.
Lemmon has reported on Afghanistan since 2005, when she made her first trip to the country. She has written about the country’s politics and economy, the evolving roles of Afghan women, and Afghanistan’s small but important class of young entrepreneurs. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Financial Times, Fast Company, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast. In 2017, she became a CNN contributor.
In 2011, after years of immersive research, Lemmon wrote The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, the “transporting, enlightening” (People) story of Kamila Sidiqi, a fearless entrepreneur who started a dressmaking business in her living room. Eventually, her business created jobs and hope for 100 women in her war-town Kabul neighborhood.
Lemmon’s second book, Ashley’s War, tells the story of Cultural Support Teams, the US Army’s pilot program to put women on the battlefield alongside Green Berets and Army Rangers on sensitive missions in Afghanistan. The idea was that women could access places and people that had remained out of reach, and could build relationships—woman to woman—in ways that males soldiers in a conservative, traditional country could not. Film rights to the book were bought at auction by FOX 2000 and Reese Witherspoon’s production company. Ashley’s War was also named to the 2016 Special Operations Command Commander’s Reading List.
In addition to her work on foreign policy and the fight to end child marriage, Lemmon has written a number of pieces about women and girls for The Atlantic, including “We Need to Tell Girls They Can Have It All (Even If They Can’t),” which is mentioned in Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
Lemmon’s newest book, A Heaven From Hell, forthcoming from Penguin Press, is about the Kurdish women leading the battle against ISIS—and fighting to realize their radical, unlikely feminist vision for government in the Middle East.
Lemmon is a contributor to The Atlantic’s Defense One site, writing regularly on national security and foreign policy issues. She regularly appears on a number of broadcast networks, including PBS, CBS, MSNBC, CNN and National Public Radio, to discuss foreign policy issues. In December 2011, she gave the opening talk at TEDxWomen, which focused on why investing in women can make the difference for the global economy. Her presentation was named a TED Talk of the Day.
Writing regularly on entrepreneurship, with a focus on fragile states and developing economies, Lemmon has consulted for the World Bank and penned working papers for the Council on Foreign Relations, arguing for comprehensive, long-term, collaborative approaches to help entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict countries overcome challenges in accessing capital, markets, networks, and business-skills training.
Lemmon graduated summa cum laude from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She received an MBA from Harvard, as well as the 2006 Dean’s Award for her work on women’s entrepreneurship. She served as a Fulbright scholar in Spain and a Robert Bosch Foundation fellow in Germany. Currently, she is Chief Marketing Officer of artificial intelligence company Shield AI, which develops AI systems to protect the lives of service members and civilians. Lemmon also serves on the boards of Mercy Corps and the International Center for Research on Women and is a member of the Bretton Woods Committee. She speaks Spanish, German, French, and Dari.
For more information on Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, please visit gaylelemmon.com.