Kirstie Sims is a Senior Director leading the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, where she oversees Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s commitment of $100 million over five years to promote equity and address systemic racism in four national systems: health, finance, criminal justice and education.
In June 2020, Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon made a commitment to use Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s scale and resources to address systemic racism in the United States. With this, the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity was born.
Because of Kirstie’s leadership skills and history as a high-performing thought-leader at Walmart, she was inspired to apply for the newly created position. She leads the center’s philanthropic efforts, which include funding research, advocacy, innovation of practices and tools, stakeholder convening and nonprofit capacity building, and in the past two years, Kirstie has worked to build the framework of the center and establish partnerships to make long-lasting change. Her upbringing instilled in her a drive to help advance equity and create opportunity for people. She was deeply passionate about social justice long before the Center for Racial Equity was established.
Growing up in Benton, Arkansas, the oldest of six children, her parents were educators, and her dad is also a pastor. In 2017, Kirstie’s family mission work resulted in the creation of a five-classroom school in the remote mountains of Haiti, which serves more than 200 students. She’s extremely passionate about her family’s mission work and loves traveling with her husband and spending time with her three children.
One of her grandfather’s mottos was, “I give because I have to give, and I have to give because I give.” Kirstie explains, “If you give from your heart without expectations, it will be returned to you two-fold.”
That same giving spirit has continued throughout Kirstie’s life. She and her husband Michael started their own charity in 2020 to support local Arkansas nonprofits, focusing on the support of children through educational tools and resources. Kirstie is also Foundation chair of the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.
Kirstie graduated from the University of Arkansas with a master’s degree in Health Science with an emphasis in Healthcare Administration, with a goal to work in the health care field. However, there weren’t many minority women leaders in health care administration positions at the time. As she looked for work in health care, she began as an hourly associate at Walmart. Within six months of joining Walmart, she earned a salaried position.
Her career path has remained somewhat connected to looking after the health and safety of people. Prior to her role as Senior Director of the Center, Kirstie has spent the last 20 years with Walmart, Inc., across the sectors of Human Resources, Health & Safety, Global Governance and Ethics & Compliance. She’s a Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional and thought-leader with years of experience in building high-performing cross-functional teams that drive systematic and sustainable changes.
“The roles I held at Walmart supporting Associates and upholding company integrity deeply aligned with my values and those experiences also equipped me for working in philanthropy,” Kirstie says.
In 2021, she completed the Council on Foundations Career Pathways Program, a highly-selective cohort aimed at deepening expertise and leadership skills in the philanthropic sector. The fellowship provides resources and tools for people working at the intersection of private foundations and corporate philanthropy. The intense program looks at how to help build diversity in leadership in the philanthropic field. Through all Kirstie’s experience, she believes in having strong mentors. “You need several mentors that can help you develop and grow as a leader so you can advocate for yourself and others. You need mentors that tell you the hard things you may not want to hear. You need the cheerleaders. You also need those that will help you be strategic, and sometimes it’s different individuals.”
As a working mom, she says it’s so important to lean on your village of friends and family. “We try to be she-roes, but we have to be aware of when we need help, and intentional about asking for it. My husband is my rock. My true partner. And whoever that is for other working moms, you have to ask for help and leverage it.”
When asked if we are moving the needle in the right direction for change, Kirstie says, “I believe there is forward movement. People are more inclusive and bringing your whole self to work is embraced.”
Kirstie adds that she has an amazing team at the Center for Racial Equity where they work together with countless people and nonprofit organizations to advance racial equity. They collaborate cross-functionally to help complement the company’s efforts through business and philanthropy to advance racial equity in society.
Kirstie and her team are working to solve systemic problems. She says the best part of her job is doing transformative work. “We hope to change the narrative of racial equity through our strategic investments, and also in how we think and operate. The goal is that race should not be a barrier to achieving the American dream.” We couldn’t agree more. For more information, visit www.walmart.org.