“It was something that I had always wanted to do, because I always felt this inclination to stand up for folks who didn’t have a voice,” explains Michelle Patterson Wimes, SVP Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. Michelle began her professional journey as a teacher and then as a lawyer, thinking that was the best route to being able to help people. Along the way, she gathered experiences that made her the perfect candidate for working in DEI. Today, Michelle discusses her journey to becoming a Chief DEI Officer.
Michelle never let fear of trying something new stop her and has made several challenging career transitions throughout her journey. Her foreign language experience and proficiency in Spanish made her an excellent candidate for working with an international community. Then, as a lawyer, she found herself working in immigration law. Transitioning into DEI was a very natural progression with her experiences and goals, especially because a position for Diversity Director opened up at one of the firms she had previously practiced at. Wanting to be able to have a greater impact, she transitioned again, moving to another firm where she’d be able to create a professional development program in addition to the diversity and inclusion work. Then, the pandemic hit and another opportunity came around, this time with Children’s Mercy in Kansas City. Attracted to the challenge and the opportunity to work in her local community, Michelle took a leap and began learning about equity and equality in healthcare.
Transitioning careers can be scary and very difficult, but also extremely rewarding. If you are in a position that no longer aligns with your values or does not offer opportunities for growth, it is useful to start planning an exit strategy. As Michelle says, life is too short to not enjoy what you are doing.
“It was something that I had always wanted to do because I always felt this inclination to stand up for folks who didn’t have a voice.” (7:56–8:05 | Michelle)
“If it’s not meaningful, if it doesn’t align with my values, and I’m just exhausted where I don’t even have time or energy to do anything else, then to me, it’s time to start planning your exit strategy.” (29:40–29:52 | Michelle)
“What they don’t understand is that diversity should be interwoven into everything that you do.” (36:36–36:41 | Michelle)
“What happens a lot of times is that the existing leaders that are there feel like their territory is being encroached upon.” (36:57–37:06 | Michelle)
“What we’re seeing in healthcare is a lot of accrediting bodies putting standards around health equity that before now did not exist.” (46:43–46:53 | Michelle)