Yulan Li, Vice President, Global Chief Legal Counsel, Kimberly-Clark Professional, is a courageous woman who has taken bold moves in her leadership and personal journey.  

Immigrating from China to the U.S. with a master’s degree in chemistry but no money or network of friends and family, Yulan began her professional journey as a research scientist and learned the spoken English language. She also made some life-long friends who have always encouraged her in discouraging and embarrassing moments along the way while assimilating in the U.S. 

Yulan says that to adjust to the new way of life, she drew strength from the Asian American community and she highly values and credits them for building her confidence and supporting her through professional and personal challenges. But sadly, she also noticed the biases and stereotyping of Asian American scientists in the country.  

Within five years of being in the U.S., Yulan’s experience sparked a life-changing decision to go to law school. Although initially hesitant and scared of judgement, Yulan pushed past self-doubt and people around her questioning this major decision and pursued her law degree. Fortunately, she also found a strong community of supporters in law school.  

“It was invigorating to constantly learn, and I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation,” said Yulan. “I was also continuing to network, and I was so inspired by fellow Asian Americans and their success stories as I built this fabric within a new community.” 

After law school, Yulan joined a large law firm in New York City as a corporate attorney. For over a decade there, she focused on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), corporate securities work for private equity funds, and patent litigation. 

“There was a lot about corporate America that I was interested in, and capitalism was intriguing to me,” she explained. 

During that time, Yulan was also balancing a demanding career with her own family and new role as a mom. Luckily, Yulan’s staunch supporter, her husband was by her side and took on the primary care role for their young children during the early years of her career. Soon after, he tragically passed away, “My world collapsed”, Yulan recalls. It was also a time of economic downturn with many additional challenges coming in her career path.  

After much soul searching, Yulan leveraged her positive mindset to sail through tough times and support and encourage her children. “Life is not about what happens to you, but what you do with it,” she explained.  

Yulan shared this advice with her children, which she has since lived by during her journey of rebuilding her family support. “You’re not unique in experiencing life challenges – everybody goes through challenges in some shape or form,” she said. “If you don’t focus on yourself, but on the bigger picture, you will be situated slightly differently and better.” 

During this time, Yulan was also learning about being a new leader and was able to translate her experience as a single parent to her leadership roles. She felt great responsibility and accountability for her teams and early on, learned how to support people in their wins and through challenging times. 

Yulan’s next career transformation was moving from a private legal practice to an in-house position working for several different industries, including life-saving medical devices. She was inspired by the impact of her work, which was a key factor in deciding to take up her current role with Kimberly-Clark Professional. 

“I’m very proud of serving the needs of billions of people around the world and the reach of Kimberly-Clark is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding”, Yulan added. These values along with the strong presence of the Asian American community and a diverse leadership team in the company attracted her towards Kimberly-Clark. 

Yulan feels grateful to work at Kimberly-Clark given the strong culture of caring and dedication to inclusion, equity, and diversity. “The company prides itself in serving a diverse population and cultures with our products around the globe and that is entrenched at the company,” she said.  

She appreciates that Kimberly-Clark encourages employees to be inclusive of all people, and different views and opinions and values this ongoing commitment that resonates with her. “It’s not about labels, it’s about who you are as a person and what you do for yourself, your family and your company”, Yulan added. 

Yulan encourages others to have inner strength to believe in yourself and your ability to accomplish your goals. When that is challenged, remember what brought you to the current situation and the experiences you have that will support you through it. “Believe in yourself first so that others can believe in you,” she concluded.