Lee is the first woman from Africa to reach the Magnetic North Pole. In 2011, she took part in what is known to be the “world’s toughest race”, the Polar Race, to the Magnetic North Pole. This biennial race covers over 700km across the frozen Arctic Ocean, from the Inuit town of Resolute in northern Canada to the Magnetic North Pole.
Lee was part of Team International – and as the name suggests the team came together from a scattering of different countries: Rob Platt from the UK and Ryan Malfara from Canada.
During the race, Lee and her team journeyed across the Arctic Ocean on foot and ski, under the power of the human body only. There were no dogs, no kites and no snowmobiles. They undertook the journey whilst dragging all of their own equipment in a sled, wearing the same clothes for a month and navigating themselves across the High Arctic in average temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius.
In early April 2011, having spent the best part of 18 months training for the race, and being bold enough to dream big and to passionately pursue her dream, Lee and her team set out into the High Arctic hoping to survive the journey.
The average temperature during the race was -41 degrees Celsius, with the coldest day dropping to –79 degrees Celsius. The team faced the full wrath of Mother Nature on the journey having been snowed in for two days in a terrifying storm along the way. The team encountered polar bears, survived two tent fires (one of which cost Lee her eyelashes and eyebrows) and endured a series of injuries (including nerve damage in hands and feet, wind burn, frost nip, deep tissue chaffing, diarrhoea, joint degradation, extreme fatigue and infections as a result of developing blister on top of blister along the way).
However, together, the team completed the race in 23 brutal days to win the Polar Race. On the 27th April 2011, Freedom Day in South Africa, Lee became the first woman from Africa to reach the Magnetic North Pole.
Upon returning from the Arctic Lee was showered with a number of prestigious accolades, including:
- Being named as one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans in 2011
- Featuring as one of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Top 10 Alumni in 2011
- Being named as one of Oprah Magazine’s Power Women of 2011
- Being named as a finalist for Adventurer of the Year in 2011
- Meeting Michelle Obama by invitation by the US Embassy
- Being selected as the face of the Deloitte Women’s Day campaign in 2011
- Featuring in the Deloitte advertising campaign “Unique People. Inspired Results” in 2012
- Being named as an ambassador for the Wildlands Conservation Trust
- Being named as an ambassador for the LEAP Science and Maths Schools
- Featuring as a speaker for TEDx events across South Africa
- Featuring as one of the ten shortlisted speakers for the prestigious TED Global talks
Lee is a well-known face on the speaker circuit. Her keynote speech “One Woman, One Challenge, Once-in-a-lifetime” has inspired and humbled audiences across South Africa and abroad, with a list of clientele including Investec, Alexander Forbes, Deloitte, Old Mutual, Sanlam, Sasol, The Gordon Institute of Business Science, East Coast Radio and many others.
Outside of her speaking career, Lee is a leading business strategist with a passion for sustainable business. She is now the Chief Executive Officer for a boutique strategy consultancy, having spent a number of years as a strategist at Deloitte Consulting.