• Gianna

#45 "A constant state of WOW"

What WOWs you? Google uses words like astonishment, admiration and impressed to define the word WOW. During my interview with the founder of WOW WOMAN, Olga Shmaidenko, I found myself in a constant state of WOW! Here’s her story.

When she was a teenager, Olga and her mother moved from Ukraine to Canada. She immediately became an outsider and was forced to learn a whole new language. She explained that if she could go back and talk to her newly immigrated teenage self, she would say “everything is going to be fine and this is worth it”. However, just because it was worth it, doesn’t mean it was easy. 

Olga wanted me to understand what it is like being an immigrant trying to learn English, so she described the following practical scenario:

Imagine being in eighth grade working on a group project. You have ideas and thoughts that you want to say, and you try to give your input. A group partner looks at you and says, “Hold on, Olga,” but you have no idea what you’re holding on to. You immediately become frustrated and sit back in confusion. Hold on has two different meanings - the literal one and the figurative one. You have to somehow learn both. WOW!

Olga went to a university in Canada and graduated with a biochemistry and economics degree. She went off to New York City and worked for a HIV vaccine research and development organization and advocated for female survivors at an emergency room in a New York Hospital. WOW!!

One day while sitting in a coffee shop in New York City, Olga watched a strong, confident looking woman walk in with a hard hat and boots. She clearly was working on the construction site down the road. Olga was fascinated with her and asked this lady if she could ask her a few questions about her work with mostly men. Everything about this construction worker had Olga saying WOW. They sat and talked, Olga photographed her, and the WOW WOMAN project was born. 

Olga began traveling across the world interviewing women and highlighting their stories. Today, she has traveled to 35+ countries, visited 5 continents and interviewed over 150 women. She photographs them and publishes their stories on her website She has been from the Philippines to Indonesia to Namibia to Brazil to the USA meeting and sharing the stories of women crushing it in their fields. Olga chooses to celebrate women across all races, ages, cultures and religious backgrounds. WOW!!!

Society has spent years putting women into a very tight gender stereotype and expected role. These amazing women challenge those stereotypes and set their own expectations. Women such as these fought for and won our right to vote, still fight for our right for equal pay and will fight to elect our first woman President.

Olga is a trailblazer. She is helping us rejoice in the fact that women do not have to fit under the expectations and limitations of others. From firefighters to comedians to DJs to kite surfers to models to boxers to teachers to doctors, Olga celebrates all of us. WOW!!!!

So, what can we learn from Olga? We can learn that women are simply awesome and that we need to celebrate and encourage that awesomeness. So today let’s all be WOW WOMEN by being WOWed by one of our girlfriends and letting them know it.

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