Editor’s note: Each issue of the Influential Women enewsletter will feature profiles of the Business Journal’s reigning 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. The profile first appeared in the event program.
In 2011, Varnum appointed Elizabeth Joy Fossel its first diversity and inclusion counsel — a position that has led her to foster greater inclusiveness throughout West Michigan and enhance understanding of the value of diverse perspectives, backgrounds, ethnicities and experiences.
Beyond her legal work, which she offers pro bono when needed, Fossel views diversity and inclusion as essential for the equitable growth of the West Michigan economy and for talent attraction and retention in the community.
To that end, she leads a portion of the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative that focuses on recruitment and is geared toward increasing the number of minority and women lawyers in the Grand Rapids legal community.
She spearheaded the development of the “grabLAW” campaign, designed to attract millennials to careers here and has led efforts to expand the Grand Rapids Bar Association’s minority clerkship program, by working to increase the number of participating employers and expanding the applicant pool.
In 2013, Fossel was recognized with the President’s Award for exemplary service by the Grand Rapids Bar Association and the Diversity Business Leader Award by Corp! Magazine.
In the community
In addition to her role on the board of trustees for the local bar association, she serves on the boards for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Gerontology Network, Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore and the Kent District Library Fund Development Board.
She also provides civic education to ninth graders at Ottawa Hills and teaches courses at Cooley Law School and Grand Valley State University.