Ladies in leadership, Geis women hold leadership positions at national, state, local level
For the first time anyone can remember, the same family of women sits at the helm of the national, state and local cattlewomen chapters, building a legacy of leadership within the family.
Gwen Geis, her sister-in-law Bobbie Geis and Gwen’s daughter Kahla Mills have injected their passion for the cattle industry by serving in the organization in any way they can.
“A lot of times, cattlewomen are generational,” Gwen comments, “but to do it at the same time and have three of us from the same family as president of organizations just doesn’t happen very often – if ever.”
She continues, “Many times a mother and daughter will serve as county or state president, but most often that’s over a span of 10 or 20 years. We’re doing it all at the same time.”
All three women are proud to represent the cattle industry as strong ranch women, and they hope to provide an impact in their state, community and at home on the ranch. While Gwen serves as American National CattleWomen (ANCW) president, Kahla is the Wyoming CattleWomen president, and Bobbie is at the head of the Campbell County CattleWomen.
Becoming a cattlewoman
“I have always been committed to cattlewomen,” says Gwen. “I have been a member of the local and state organizations since I was in high school.”
The more she got involved at the state level, Gwen began to attend national conventions and events, as well, creating a positive role model for her daughter and sister-in-law both.
As she got involved, Gwen says, “I started to drag Bobbie and Kahla with me to these different events, and they became more and more involved. They went with me to state and regional cattlewomen events.”
When she was elected ANCW president, Gwen noted that she focused on sharing her story as a ranch woman and cattle raiser.
“I have been humbled and honored that the women across this country have given me the opportunity to be a spokesperson for cattlewomen everywhere,” she continues.
Over the past year, Gwen has enjoyed traveling across from coast-to-coast, visiting different operations and different states.
“We’re all working for the same goal of producing a quality, sustainable, healthy product that the consumer wants,” she comments. “Whether we do that by raising 10 head or 10,000, we’re trying to tell our individual stories as women.”
Bobbie and Kahla agree that Gwen was their inspiration and driving force that started their passion for the cattlewomen, and when Gwen joined ANCW’s leadership, they stepped up to lead, as well.
“My mom has always been an inspiration for me, and she pushed me to be involved, which was great,” says Kahla, who was elected president of Wyoming CattleWomen in 2017. “I knew I wanted to get involved after watching her.”
Both Bobbie and Kahla note that they were at first hesitatant to take over the lead of their organizations. When Kahla was elected as president of the Wyoming CattleWomen, she was nervous about her ability to lead but decided to accept the role to take responsibility for the future of Wyoming’s cattle industry and emphasize the strong role of women in that industry.
“I was pretty hesitant to be president of Campbell County CattleWomen,” says Bobbie, “but I knew there were great women who were active members of the organization and they would support me along the way.”
“As I’ve grown in this leadership role, I’ve seen how the consumer responds to women as they tell their stories,” Gwen notes. “Both Bobbie and Kahla have a great ability to tell their story in their own way.”
Gwen notes Bobbie’s educational background has poised her to excel in sharing the beef story.
Starting at the local level, Bobbie says advocacy is an important part of the work that Campbell County CattleWomen does.
“Each year, we have an ag expo that bring third graders to learn more about the ag industry,” she describes, noting the event is a way for school children to learn about the industry in a hands-on fashion. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun to do, as well.”
Kahla notes sharing the beef story at the state level is also important, but the state does it in a different way, focused more on programs like the beef ambassador program.
“Kahla’s a rancher herself,” explains Gwen. “She learned the different aspects of why we did what we did while she was growing up. Now, she’s ventured out on her own with her husband, and she’s raising her family on the ranch. She tells those stories, which is important.”
Gwen adds, “A lot of young people don’t see other young women stepping into a leadership role. Kahla’s ability to step into this role and lead has been a very proud moment for me.”
Lessons in leadership
As they look at what they have learned by serving as cattlewomen, Gwen, Kahla and Bobbie all note that women in agriculture should take the time – whatever time that is – to get involved.
“We may not always think we have time to do a lot, but even just paying dues and contributing as a member at large, on conference calls or anything else can mean so much,” Gwen says. “ANCW, Wyoming CattleWomen, Campbell County CattleWomen and the other local organizations are membership-based. We’re here to work for our members, and we do that best when everyone gets involved.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.