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Q&A with SEC Women’s Committee Co-Chair Leah Clague

March 6, 2023

Leah Clague headshot
 Leah Clague

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the SEC is spotlighting Leah Clague, who serves as one of several co-chairs for its Women’s Committee and helps lead the Committee’s intern mentor program. In this Q&A, Leah shares her background, the reasons why she joined the SEC, and some of the work she and the Women’s Committee have done to promote the rights and opportunities of women.

Q. Can you share a little about your background and the path that brought you to the SEC?

A. I joined the SEC through the Chair’s Honors Attorney Program in 2015. I originally joined the Constituent Monitoring, Rulemaking, and Policy Branch of the Office of Credit Ratings (OCR). After a few rotations through other functional areas, I now support the Business Management Office in OCR as an attorney advisor. My current role combines my legal and business background in a very fulfilling way.

Prior to the SEC, I worked as a fiscal and policy analyst for the Maryland General Assembly and as a fellow for the American Bankruptcy Institute working on revising Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. I became interested in the SEC when I completed an internship with the Office of International Affairs during law school and saw firsthand what a unique environment the SEC has.

Prior to law school, I worked as a financial analyst for a major medical system after getting my MBA in International Business from Temple University. However, I couldn’t avoid the lifelong interest I had in law school, so I went back to school. My parents would argue that I was destined for law school ever since I presented them with a “service contract” to convince them to buy me a puppy in middle school!

Q. Why did you join the Women’s Committee, and what has been most rewarding about your co-chair roles?

A. When I first joined the agency, I was looking for a way to get more involved and expand my network. After attending a few Women’s Committee meetings, I was drawn to get more involved not only because of the interesting programming the committee was sponsoring, but the equally interesting women (and men, too!) who would gather around the conference room table for discussions or brainstorming. One of the first events I volunteered for was the Women’s History Month celebration with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in March 2016, and I’ve been volunteering my time ever since.

As far as the more rewarding experiences I have had, it’s a tie. First, I helped coordinate and participated in the swearing in of 24 Women’s Committee members to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. It was an awe-inspiring experience to stand before the Justices alongside your colleagues and hear your name called for admission. OMWI was even able to coordinate a personal greeting from Chief Justice John Roberts for our group. It was a professional highlight of my career.

The other experience I continue to find rewarding is working with Luna Bloom to coordinate our intern mentor program, which is open to everyone regardless of gender identity. It’s a time-intensive endeavor to personally match all of the interested interns with our group of dedicated volunteer mentors, but having a mentor is such a critical element of developing and owning your career path.

The Women’s Committee can provide a diverse and unique perspective as we often have representatives from so many of our other employee affinity groups involved in our programming.

-Leah Clague, Co-Chair, SEC Women's Committee

Q: What unique perspectives do you bring to the Women’s Committee that you feel has helped enhance diversity, equity and inclusion both internally at the agency and externally in the community that we serve?

A. I think in general that the Women’s Committee can provide a diverse and unique perspective as we often have representatives from so many of our other employee affinity groups involved in our programming. While the Women’s Committee focuses on promoting greater awareness of women’s contributions to the SEC and broader community, we ourselves come from such different backgrounds and represent different stages of life.

I bring the perspective of a woman in the workplace also trying to balance the demands of home life with two young children at home. It’s a unique time in my career of searching for work-life balance, something that eludes so many of us, and not least of all working moms. I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of tackling challenging projects at work, but also want to make sure I’m able to show up for my daughters.

Q: At the SEC, we emphasize the importance of mentorship, sponsorship and internships as conduits for creating personal and professional opportunities. What advice do you have for new mentors and mentees so that both sides may get the most out of the experience?

A. A strong mentor relationship can make such a lifelong impact on someone’s career. But sometimes overlooked is that some relationships between mentors and mentees are just for a season or a reason. We try to make meaningful connections based on shared backgrounds and interests, or career goals that align, in hope that it gives pairs a head start. There is value to be gained even from short engagements and even where there might not be a lot of preexisting common ground, so we encourage pairs to be open-minded. At a minimum, mentors have been through the earliest stages of their careers, and so they can relate to that experience that interns are going through.

Also, the value and impact can often go both ways! I think a mentor can have just as much to gain from the experience as a mentee.

The advice we give to mentors and mentees is to shape the relationship how it best suits you. Our program is informal so there are no set requirements, but we ask that both participants commit to being engaged. Then, as simple as it seems, keep in touch! I personally have a mentor from law school that I make a point of having lunch with once a year, and it’s amazing how the relationship can grow and change over time.

Q: What barriers have you encountered on your career path, and what advice might you give to help others overcome similar barriers?

A. I do think the biggest challenges I have encountered on my career path are maintaining work-life balance, but also feeling comfortable in the untraditional career path I’ve forged.

Work-life balance hits differently at all stages of life, and for now, it’s often more important for me to have a presence at home in the evening. So I prioritize that over other opportunities that may disrupt my ability to do that. It’s a privilege to be able to show my two daughters that I work really hard at my job, but that I also have the flexibility to make the evening weekday swim meet or chaperone a school field trip.

Even with a great mentor or two by your side, there is no other person who cares as much about your career path and professional development as you do. Ultimately, you are the one who has to be content and fulfilled by that path, and your path will not look like anyone else’s. It can be challenging to tune out the noise of other people’s opinions.

Q. If you could have dinner with any individual, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

A. Given the choice of anyone, I would choose my maternal grandmother, who was affectionately called “Bobbie” because of how she would always lovingly yell “Bobbbb” at my Pop-Pop. She passed away in the mid-90s, but I have such fond memories of faxing her messages back and forth across the Atlantic from my dad’s office when our family was living abroad. She would be absolutely tickled by FaceTime!

She was such an example of unconditional love, that I would love the opportunity to proudly fill her in on all the adventures I’ve had and one more chance to soak in more of the valuable life lessons she always had to offer up!

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