About Lael Couper Jepson

Bucking Tradition

I could do the typical song and dance designed to dazzle you with my experience and education.  I could mention my years consulting inside a Fortune 500 company, or that I received my Masters from one of the finest programs in the country. I could blather about the hundreds of clients and thousands of hours I logged as a coach and a consultant since starting SheChanges in 2006…

But that would be kind of boring, wouldn’t it?

Because if you’re anything like me and my clients, that stuff doesn’t really do it for you. Sure it matters, but it’s assumed (and forgettable) – kind of like the price of entry.

The Real Deal

What’s infinitely more interesting – and revealing about me and why I do this work – is the story of why I left my cushy corporate job to create SheChanges…

The story that started the fire in my belly that will not go out.

I remember one fall day in 2002, walking into a room full of the top 150 leaders of my company. It was the annual leadership retreat, and it was the eighth time I had attended this particular event as part of the team that designed and facilitated it. I was nine months pregnant with my first child. Being at this retreat was nothing new for me. It was old hat, familiar, and comfortable.

But this year, I walked in the main room that first day and all I could see was a sea of white men. My jaw fell open and I felt momentarily stunned. At that same moment, I looked down and could only see the tips of my shoes beneath my swollen belly. This is going to sound moronic, given the fact that I was pregnant, but my first thought was, “Oh, I’m a woman.” My second thought was,

“I don’t belong here.”

And then I got angry. That was the moment the fire in my belly started. Not a full-on losing it anger, but more like the slow simmer of keen awareness, hushed resentment, and unspoken truth mixed together in a kettle. It took a while for it all to register. Three years, to be exact.

Because ever since graduating college in 1991, I had been fed a steady diet of “you should just be grateful you have a job” and “this is a great company to work in if you’re a woman” by the men I’d worked with, and “you’re lucky, women have come along way since my day” and “that’s just the way it is” by the women I’d worked with…

But as I stood there that day, none of that felt true. Or right.

In that moment, I realized I had been actively diminishing and discounting the fact that I was a woman, taking pride that I had made a place for myself and was, in fact, thriving as “one of the guys.” I had been down-playing my education, qualifying my opinions and ideas, and tolerating a salary that was considerably less than my worth so that I could better fit in. I realized I didn’t want to do that anymore. I was tired of chronically checking pieces of myself at the door every morning, or smuggling them discretely into the corners of my work with clients – my intuition, my outspoken nature, my fierceness, my courage, my instincts, my different perspective, my passion. In short, my feminine. As in “the feminine”…the archetypal wild woman that I’d stuffed in a box.

I was done stuffing myself into a box.

Lael Making ChangeSo I left (eventually, not that day) and founded SheChanges in 2006. I created a place that made space in all the noise of our busy lives and society for the feminine to re-emerge.

And then lead.

I dedicate my professional energies to blowing on the embers and fanning the fires of women – and a few men – like me, who are tired of choking down their truths and biting their tongues. I am doing my part to actively unlock, ignite, foster, and fuel change – in our workplaces, in how we do business, and in how we lead and live our lives.

That’s who I am and what I do well.

I am an instigator, a boat-rocker, a pot-stirrer, a disrupter, and a rule breaker. I like to poke holes in people’s logic and see if it holds water. I was born to push boundaries, test limits and question everything.

I find rebellion, uprisings, and revolutions inspiring, even sexy.

I don’t believe change takes nearly as long as we seem to think – anyone who lived through 9/11 knows better.

I adore frustration, impatience, and yes, even anger – and love nothing more than following its juicy trail to the source of inspired and creative change. It’s my favorite form of alchemy, turning fire into pure gold.

If pop culture is your thing, consider me an amalgam of Kathryn Hepburn, Annie Oakley, Katniss Everdeen, Grandmother Willow, Tina Fey, Ellen Degeneres, Elaine from Seinfeld, and Vianne from Chocolat.

053_MelissaMullenI have no interest in wasting time – yours, mine or theirs – and have become something of an expert at sniffing out the truth, cutting to the chase, and boiling it down to brass tacks.

I do it with love (yes, I said love) and a boatload of humor, because I firmly believe that change doesn’t have to hurt or be hard.

I make people laugh when they work with me, but they also think. Critically. And feel. Deeply. Then they move.

I’ve been called inspiring more times than I probably realize, but I’ve also been called a badass and dogged in service of my client’s vision for themselves or for their business.

I don’t believe you need me to go where you want to go. You’ll get there eventually, on your own terms. But it’s a hell of a lot more fun and happens faster if you’ve got a fierce champion and die-hard guide riding shotgun.

When you get me, you get my community.

The people I work with inevitably want to meet each other. Like you, they are often feeling a bit isolated, despite having many friends and family. They are craving people who “get them”, who share their energy, fire, and commitment to creating change.

Birds of Feather1They’re tired of being told to “be careful”, “do it right” or “wait until…” They’ve grown weary of people telling them their ideas are a bit lofty or outlandish or – worse yet – selfish. They are hungry for inspiration, validation and, well, community.

So I’ve intentionally woven community into my business, in such as way that it offers many intersections and overlaps with the individual’s experience. Whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter, or one of the many women’s experiences I offer, women that work with me immediately get access to a larger network of women – and a few men – that are sure to be kindred spirits.

Call it a tribe, a posse, or a village. But I call it a force for change.

And let me tell you, we are a generous and fiercely loyal lot. We give back, pay it forward, connect the dots, and take care good care of our own.

Since opening the doors to SheChanges in 2006, funds generated through my community have enabled us to donate over $7,000 to organizations that support women and girls – some of which include the Maine Women’s Fund, Coastal Studies for Girls, Birthroots, and Family Crisis Services.

HSBARSMembers of my community, having been inspired by their experience within the SheChanges community, have gone on to launch their own platforms that harness and leverage the power of women’s social networks and collective wisdom worldwide. Check out HSBARS (Hot Shit Bad Ass Rock Stars) Worldwide to see what I’m talking about.

The referral base of SheChanges is deep and wide. I am constantly being fed names of women that are running stellar businesses or making some awesome change in the world. Women want to support women in growing their businesses, and the SheChanges community is a powerful generator behind that economic engine.

I believe in the power of community. Period. It simply rocks my world.

So there. Still want me to tap dance?