Daring Women

Celebrating Differences

By Rob Smith April 1, 2021


As a Native Hawaiian/Chinese woman, Leslie Cherry realizes how important it is to use her platform as a leader to inspire clients, colleagues and the community at large. Cherry, Bank of America’s Pacific Northwest consumer market leader, is co-chair of the bank’s Native American Professional Network (NAPN) for the Pacific Northwest and was recently selected to head NAPN Enterprise as a regional leader. NAPN helps aid in the recruitment, retention and career development of Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and Alaskan Natives. NAPN also provides a stage for addressing business and cultural concerns.


Good leaders practice self-awareness to recognize the influence they have on others. They elevate and support those around them by providing encouragement, especially for underrepresented groups. It’s important to know who you are trying to reach and make sure you meet them where they are. A leader is flexible and multifaceted, recognizing that no two situations are the same. In order to inspire others to get outside their comfort zones, you must have been there yourself. I want my team to know I am right there with them, elbows deep in the trenches. This not only builds trust but allows them to try new things in a safe and supportive space. As a leader, you are a model for others.


As a woman, the biggest barrier I faced was understanding my worth. From when we are little girls to grown adults, women are often positioned in a way of playing catch-up to men. You “run like a girl” implies running like a boy is the right way. As a society, we need to take a step back and change how we speak to and about women. We are tenacious, resilient and strong. In a male-dominated industry, it can feel like you constantly have something to prove when you should unapologetically be yourself. That’s something I’ve learned in my work experience and something I strive to share with others. 


As much progress as has been made to uplift women in the workplace, there’s still a long way to go. It’s important for emerging female leaders to practice resiliency and confidence. There are roles out there for us and we need to have the courage to go for them. I’ll admit I was fearful when Covid-19 began that women would be forced to take two steps back. All the progress and momentum we’ve accomplished would be minimized due to schools shutting down, offices closing and more. I was pleasantly surprised at the immediate changes companies enacted.

Lessons Learned

I’ve learned so many important lessons from several women throughout the years. I think there’s something gained from every interaction. One small but simple takeaway I learned from a former boss was not to apologize for convenience. Even as working women, there are expectations that we run the household – cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. It’s okay to take a “short cut.” Sign up for a meal preparation service. Hire a cleaning company. Get your groceries delivered. Ultimately, using these resources will allow you more time for yourself and family to do activities that you enjoy. 


Throughout life, you will have different experiences, careers, relationships and more. Through it all, it’s important to uphold your vision and purpose. They will undoubtedly change and adapt as you do, but it helps to have a reference point. Don’t change who you are for anyone or any job. Embrace yourself.


I highly encourage networking with individuals who look different from you or have different life experiences. You may learn something you never expected. For me personally, networking is the basis for everything I do, especially in recruitment and mentorship. Any time I meet someone new, I take a mental note and remember them down the road. Oftentimes you share commonalities with the people you meet, so networking builds a sense of connection and camaraderie. 

Do Differently

There’s not a lot I’d do differently if I had to do it over. The only thing I wish I would have done sooner is to take advantage of furthering my education through the bank’s program. It’s something I encourage others to do but realized I hadn’t done it myself. Currently, I am in the process of obtaining recertification in Japanese and Arabic. 


On a typical Saturday afternoon, you will find me spending time with family and friends in Lynden or playing competitive softball. In the summer, I love taking my Harley-Davidson out with my husband and doing the South Cascade Loop. It’s stunning. 

Autobiography Title

“Fueling Passion.”

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