“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, a CNN National Security Analyst, 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 she made her first trip to the country in 2005. She has written about Afghanistan’s politics and economy, the evolving roles of Afghan women, and the country’s small but important cohort of young entrepreneurs. In 2011, after years of immersive research, she 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 male soldiers in such a conservative 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 earned a shoutout in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
Her newest book, A Heaven From Hell, out in 2020, 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 on national security and foreign policy issues. She appears regularly on a number of broadcast networks, including PBS, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, and National Public Radio, to discuss foreign policy issues. She delivered the opening talk at TEDxWomen 2011, arguing that investing in women can positively transform the global economy. Her presentation was named a TED Talk of the Day.
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 fragile states and developing economies overcome challenges in accessing capital, markets, networks, and business-skills training. Her writing has been published by The New York Times, The Financial Times, Fast Company, The Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast.
Lemmon graduated summa cum laude from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism. She earned an MBA from Harvard, where she received the 2006 Dean’s Award for her work on women’s entrepreneurship. She was 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.