2023 West Michigan Women in Leadership Symposium
March 28, 2023
8:00 AM - 12:30 PM (ET)
Rising in Resilience: Achieving Empowerment Through Advancement & Adaptability
This year’s symposium theme is "Rising in Resilience: Achieving Empowerment through Advancement & Adaptability.” Despite advances over the past several years, women continue to be underrepresented in the C-Suite and executive leadership teams of businesses across the nation. By bringing together successful women leaders, we hope to educate, inspire, and encourage attendees to reflect on their goals and status as they strive to advance in their organizations.
Valissa Armstead is the director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion of Corewell Health —formed by the joining together of Beaumont Health and Corewell Health in 2022. Valissa is responsible for ensuring the strategic alignment of DEI to Corewell Health strategies. She oversees these efforts through DEI’s five areas of focus framework: cultural competency, equity of care, workforce diversity, community engagement, and supplier diversity. She serves as a champion, consultant, bridge builder, strategic leader, and partner, empowering leaders across the system to identify and execute initiatives for effective organizational transformation. She is a proven innovator, relationship builder, change agent, and influencer for diversity, equity, and inclusion, bringing firsthand, expert knowledge to Corewell Health’s DEI efforts. Valissa joined Corewell Health in July 2015. Under her guidance, Corewell Health’s leadership signed the #123forEquity Pledge, which builds on the efforts of the American Hospital Association’s National Call to Action to Eliminate Health Care Disparities. The #123forEquity Pledge summons hospitals and health system leaders to accelerate efforts to collect sociocultural demographic data, design intentional plans and expand cultural competency training to enhance the diversity lens within leadership and governance structures, and to strengthen community partnerships. This pledge would become the catalyst for the signing of additional pledges and the creation of Corewell Health’s Antiracism Pledge. Valissa established a cross-functional diversity workgroup at Corewell Health that reaches out to hiring managers across the system to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion to their direct reports. To achieve this, she created an in-house Cultural Intelligence Facilitators Network that delivers cultural competency training in courses like unconscious bias and cultural intelligence. As a result, almost half of the health system team members have received training in cultural competency. Working towards improving the collection and reliability of patient demographic data (race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, and gender identity), Valissa helped to lead efforts in the expansion of the health system's electronic medical records, thus helping to advance the organizations efforts to better understand the patient population as a first start towards eliminating health and healthcare disparities. She helped launch volunteer employee-led inclusion resource groups (IRGs) formed around common demographics, characteristics, or shared interests. The IRGs focus on culture, commerce, career, and community that led to business results. Currently, there are eight IRGs at Corewell Health: African American, Asian American, Hispanic and Latinx, LGBTQIA+, individuals with disabilities, veterans, women, and young professionals. Most recently, she helped design, develop, and deliver a full-day, system-wide initiative called Day of Understanding. This day is used to share, listen, and be heard as BHSH continues to move forward together in addressing systemic racism. A native of Flint, Michigan, Valissa previously worked as an engineer and as a direct result, understands the importance of data as the foundation for strategic recommendations. She also speaks regularly about her lived experience of being impacted by the intersectionality of being Black and female. She uses her education and experiences to fuel, inform and guide her work as a leader in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space. Valissa earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering, a Master’s in Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Management (ABD) as she completes her research in organizational leadership with a specific focus on DEI. She is a Certified Diversity Practitioner through the National Diversity Council, a Certified Unconscious Bias Facilitator, and a Certified Cultural Intelligence Facilitator from the Cultural Intelligence Center. Additionally, she has completed executive leadership programs with the Disparities Solutions Center and McKinsey Company.
Through her lived experiences as a Latina growing up and living in predominantly white spaces, Vanessa has spent most of her life working to dismantle systems of oppression and inequities, particularly focusing on amplifying BIPOC women and other marginalized identities. Vanessa has nearly 15 years of nonprofit, executive leadership experience working with national and local nonprofits. In February 2020, Vanessa launched Mezcla Mosaic Collaborative, an organizational development consulting collaborative with the vision of amplifying, connecting, and paying consultants of color to lead systems change work in the social sector. In addition to Vanessa’s executive skills and experience, she shares a deep interest in self and social expression through the arts. She is a writer, photographer, and storyteller who has performed nationwide, sharing her passion for exploring identity, culture, and social issues through performances, speaking engagements, and teaching workshops.
Laurie Morse-Dell is the Chief Operating Officer of Incompass Michigan - a statewide network of human service providers committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, optimal independence and engagement in the community, with enhanced quality and fullness of life. She has a diverse background in marketing, leadership, and entrepreneurial development and is actively involved in various efforts that support youth who have experienced foster care. She is also a National Diversity Council Certified Diversity Professional.
Pujita Sieplinga is an assistant vice president and financial wellness consultant in PNC Organizational Financial Wellness, serving the Grand Rapids and Lakeshore markets. She is a PNC-Certified Women’s Business Advocate. Pujita works with organizations of all sizes to create engaging, high-impact employee financial wellness programs. Pujita joined PNC’s WorkPlace Banking team in 2018, and was recognized as a PNC Market All-Star in 2020. Prior to 2018, she built her career winning awards in multiple companies for successfully launching strategic initiatives around membership, group sales, employee learning and development, product launch, and analysis. She worked with organizations including Walt Disney World, the Salvation Army, NY&Co., Limited Brands, and Advantage Sign and Graphics. Raised in West Michigan, Pujita graduated from Michigan State University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication and minors in Business and Social Psychology. She has a passion for finding innovative solutions to move people forward, which she shares with various volunteer organizations in the community. She has led high school groups and tutored and mentored kids of all ages. The Secchia Millennium Commission recognized her in 2000 for her community service. Most recently, Pujita served on a panel for the Holland Public Museum and co-chairs a monthly networking lunch for Inforum. She served as the inaugural board vice president ,launching PNC Western Michigan’s multicultural group, serving on the board through 2022. Sieplinga currently serves on the board for Arbor Circle and Inforum’s West Michigan Regional Council.
Misti Lynn Stanton is a fresh voice in diversity in Michigan. After more than 30 years of community and non-profit work, she currently serves as the VP, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer for Mercantile Bank of Michigan. Misti dedicates her time and energy to cultivating an inclusive work environment in a rapidly-growing organization. In her spare time, Misti volunteers for a variety of community organizations and advocates for youth literacy and community empowerment. Misti served the Grand Rapids Public Schools in various capacities for over 25 years. Prior to her current position, she served as Program Manager for Heart of West Michigan United Way Schools of Hope, helping to set the groundwork for the program's inception. She has served on various community boards and initiatives. Misti is passionate about literacy, learning, and mentorship and has dedicated her career to improving the academic lives of students. She lives by the philosophy that knowledge can be imparted to others through the sharing of life experiences. In my spare time, I volunteer as often as I can. It's about the commitment to our community, It's the spirit of volunteerism and hands-on involvement that makes this region such a special place. Embracing different people, perspectives, and visions and recognizing how all of those different elements make us stronger when we work together. Including voices from all parts of our community, in the efforts to foster the sort of diversity that can truly make a difference for everyone.
Darlene King began her career with the Michigan Diversity Council-MIDC, a division of the National Diversity Council, in 2015. As the executive director, her charge is working with corporations and organizations in developing diversity and inclusion initiatives, programs, processes, and procedures. She also oversees the growth of the council in the area of business development throughout the entire state of Michigan. Prior to her tenure with the MIDC, she held the role of director of events, consultant services, training and development for all 34 school districts under the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency for over 10 years. Her territory covered implementation and execution of all workshops and conference as well as maintaining CEU’s for teachers and administrators within Wayne County MI. She managed more than 60 consultants as well as county-wide, signature events such as the Teacher Job Fair, County K-12 Art Fair and the Cultural Collaborative for Learning. Darlene was also an inaugural member of the Diversity Strategic Planning Committee, which rolled out a county-wide diversity plan for all districts. Darlene’s background is widespread. She spent six years as a national concert promoter, traveling around the world with some of today’s most popular artists in the industry. She has produced and promoted shows at every concert venue in Detroit and beyond. In 2008, she launched her consulting company, Life’s Journey Training and Consulting. Competing in today's global market, Life’s Journey offers services in industries ranging from education to automotive, medical, non-profits and manufacturing. Its area of expertise consists of diversity and inclusion, leadership development, marketing, and public relations. Life’s Journey has provided service deliverables to Wayne County Head Start Programs, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, The Order of the Fisherman, The Detroit Medical Center, Revival Home Health Care, RTM Music Group, Real Times Media, Stonecrest Behavioral Health, Detroit Area Agency on Aging, Universal Studios, Detroit Community Schools, MASCO Corporation, Diversity Lansing and many more. Darlene is a native of Michigan and enjoys spending time with her family, nephews and niece. She says her faith in God, family, passion for people and her love of traveling and gardening are the drivers which keep her on a Life’s Journey. Darlene has a passion for people and earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing from Wayne State University in Detroit. She has been operating in this capacity as well as in education and organizational development for 25 years. Darlene earned her National Certification as a Certified Diversity and Inclusion Professional in 2018.
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