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 director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, of Spectrum Health System, a $7.3 billion not-for-profit integrated health system based in West Michigan. Valissa is responsible for ensuring the strategic alignment of DEI to Spectrum Health’s internal (team member focused) and external (patient, member and community focused) strategies. She oversees these efforts through DEI’s five area 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 to effective organization transformation. She is a proven innovator, relationship builder, change agent and influencer for diversity, equity and inclusion, bringing firsthand, expert knowledge to Spectrum Health’s DEI efforts. Background Valissa joined Spectrum Health in July 2015. Under her guidance, Spectrum 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 West Michigan hospitals and health system leaders to accelerate efforts to collect socio-demographic data to design intentional plans and expand cultural competency training to enhance the diversity lens within leadership and governance structures, and to strengthen community partnerships. Valissa established a cross functional diversity workgroup at Spectrum Health that researches 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, gender identity), Valissa helped to lead efforts in the expansion of the health systems electronic medical records, thus helping to advance the organizations efforts to better understand the patient population as a first start towards eliminating health care 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 Spectrum Health: African American, Asian American, Hispanic and Latinx, LGBTQIA+, individuals with disabilities, veterans, women’s, and young professionals. Most recently, she helped design, development, and deliver a full-day, system-wide initiative called Day of Understanding. This day was used to share, listen and be heard as we continue 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 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 from Central State University, and a Master’s in Business Administration from University of Phoenix. She is currently completing doctoral research in organizational leadership at University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies. She is a Certified Facilitator of Unconscious Bias and Cultural Intelligence. Affiliations Committed to public service, Valissa has been a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. for 28 years. As the country's largest organization for college educated Black women, she has remained dedicated to mobilizing resources and positioning next to the organization’s five-point programmatic thrust of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority: economic development, educational development, international awareness and involvement, physical and mental health, and political awareness and involvement. Her goal continues to focus on structural change to influence the growth and development of our communities and its families, with special interest in addressing systemic health inequities; as well as, degradation of workforce structures limiting the advancement of Black and Brown people. Valissa has earned several awards under her leadership: Diversity Best Practice Inclusion Index Company (2018), Project SEARCH Employment Outcome Award (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum Social Responsibility Leadership Award (2018), LINC Up Community Spirit Innovation Award (2018), Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Diversity Visionary Award (2018) and the Michigan Salute to Diversity Award (2019). Valissa personally received the YWCA Tribute Award, in the category of business, management, industry and labor for her work towards eliminating racism and empowering women (2019). Faith, healthy living and improving wellbeing of communities is very important to Valissa. She is a board member of Kingdom Life Ministries Community Development Corporation and assists with grant writing and program development supporting self-sufficiency for families. Her passion as a runner channeled into her board member participation with S.T.A.R.S. Sisters Taking Action Reversing Statistics, a local non-profit which encourages women, particularly women of color, to make fitness and healthy living a priority for themselves. She sets her own example, having completed the New York City Marathon and the Berlin Marathon in Germany.
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.
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.
Award Nomination Woman of the YearThe nomination submission deadline date is February 14th. The award winner will be announced at the event.
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