women supporting women

Today’s guest author is Chery GegelmanPresident of Giana Consulting LLC.  Chery describes herself as a very ordinary person, an entrepreneur, a speaker, an author, a consultant and a first-time expat that has been blessed with repeated opportunities to lead system-wide change from the middle and the edge of organizations. #6 in an 8-part series.



About a month ago I got a note from Jane Perdue with an invitation to write a guest post for her blog with these questions as thought starters…

Do you ever wonder what women, men and society need to do so that…

…Women and persons of color are designated as a doctor, not “a woman doctor;” as a scientist, not “a Latino scientist,” etc.?

…Special designations aren’t needed in announcements, e.g.:  the first woman to lead the federal reserve, the first female best director Academy Award winner, the first African American female flight crew, etc.?

When I read through Jane’s questions I struggled to see these questions from the same perspective. 

After a month of turning this topic around in my mind trying to find a different perspective, my heart, my gut and my recent experiences convince me even more deeply designations and firsts are a good thing! 

Here’s why:       

Stories of FIRSTS fuel vision and drive hope

I am an eternal champion of the “under-dog” and absolutely love watching and hearing about firsts. 

Stories of people overcoming tremendous odds and becoming the first at anything inspire me, challenge me, give me hope, and encourage me when I struggle.  It’s those stories I go to when I need inspiration, and those stories I share when others need vision.  …And while I want all people to experience equity and value, I don’t want to imagine a world without firsts that are contagious! 

Overcoming painful seasons to become A FIRST makes us stronger and wiser and softer

I deeply believe that the reason history has been doomed to repeat horrific lessons from the past is that as humans we too easily forget the pain, the vision, and the sacrifice of those that have been firsts.  (Sometimes we forget our own lessons, and even more often we forget the lessons other have tried to teach us – and as each generation gets further and further away from the firsts that understanding dims.)

Stories of FIRSTS remind us that sometimes our advantage is that we had to work harderChery Gegelman quote

There is a new freshman Senator in my home state of North Dakota.  She was significantly younger than those she campaigned against.  She was a female in a sea of males.  When she decided to run for office she did not assume that she would be elected because of her years in business, her network, or her gender. 

She did her homework, she knew the issues, and she made clear strong stands up front so people didn’t have to guess how she would vote on issues that matter to them.  In spite of being the presumed under-dog she was elected!  And before long, and for the FIRST time in N.D. history she received a unanimous vote to be recognized as the Most Outstanding Freshman Senator.   

Having the courage to experience A FIRST of any kind stimulates growth increases understanding and changes your perspective

 I am currently in the midst of MY FIRST expat experience.  And even though I am not the first expat ever.  It is my first time to experience living life outside of my home country.  Many days I feel like a two-year old that is exploring the world in wonder.  I’m drinking in knowledge and constantly engaged in learning.  Why do you do things this way?  What happens if I do it my way?  …I’ve had some of my deepest values challenged, learned things I never knew to ask, I’ve faced huge urban legends, walked into fear, and deepened my understanding and appreciation of things I have always taken for granted.   

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of women that are THE FIRST generation of women to work in the public sector in their home country. 

I’m still not sure that the written word will ever fully capture that experience. 

  • These women are from progressive families in a culture that is not known for being progressive.
  • Their husbands and fathers are allowing them to work or they would never get this opportunity.
  • They work in a segregated office and must cover before they interact with the men in the office.
  • If their employer wants to send them on a business trip out of town they must first contact every husband and father for permission before they can make that happen.
  • And as limiting as all of that sounds to many women in the world, these brilliant women have the opportunity to use their natural skills and brains in a way that some of their family, friends and neighbors will never experience.

Their stories are needed to fuel vision and drive hope for others.  


When we met to honor International Women’s Day I shared several stories and quotes with them.  The quote below is the one that resonated at the highest level with them.  So if you dream of being a first and are not yet. 

Keep this in mind….

“Nothing serves us better in places of high position than our lessons in low positions.”  ~Beth Moore