Born in China, Yan Lan grew up in the midst of communism led by Mao Zedong. The communist idea of equality instilled something in her young mind that being a woman should not be a barrier to achievement.
When the Cultural Revolution set in, however, any education the young girl could have received to expand her ideas were put on hold. Her family was accused of being anti-revolutionary and her grandfather and parents were sent to prison in 1967; Lan was forbidden from attending school.
In 1969 Lan was sent to a re-education camp in Henan, where she would spend the next five years with her mother. With the end of the Cultural Revolution and the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, Lan was finally able to enrol in a Chinese university. Exceptionally gifted, she then continued her studies at the Geneva Graduate Institute, where she earned her doctorate. She then continued on to become an Associate Researcher at Harvard University in 1987.
In 1991, she joined the Gide Loyrette Nouel law firm based in Paris and became the first foreign woman to make partner. In 2011, Lan moved to banking and joined Lazard as Managing Director to lead its Chinese activities. Today, she is the Vice Chairwoman of Investment Banking at Lazard, and the Chairwoman and CEO of Lazard Greater China.
Lan is the only woman from Lazard to lead a country at one of the world's most prestigious advisory banks. And she has made her life a mirror of her commitment to women. Indeed, 60% of the senior positions on her team are held by women. "They are role models for others at the beginning of their careers," she explains.
Lan has also created Half Sky, an informal networking club for women in Hong Kong. In 2018, she attended the Women's Forum in Paris with Chiara Corraza. According to her, "there are few women in politics in China, but there are many in the economic sector”.
Lan’s husband, Ying-Han Shi, is also an Institute alumnus. The couple met while studying in Geneva.