Why Representation Matters: Wendy Dimas on Diversity and Ethics in Business Leadership

Posted by Albers Schools of Business and Economics on Monday, May 22, 2023 at 1:00 PM PDT

Wendy Dimas Headshot

Wendy Dimas has always wanted to be a business leader. Growing up Latina in the Yakima Valley, though, it was tough to find others with similar career aspirations. “I didn’t see business leaders who look like me,” she says. “Many women of color can’t imagine ourselves in these leadership roles.”

Still, Wendy’s love for numbers kept calling. “Life might not always make sense, but the numbers do,” she says. “In accounting, for example, you know there’s a right answer out there—and having the skills to find that answer can help others plan for their future.”

She saw the impact her financial leadership could have while working for KeyBank, helping customers with investment strategies meet their financial planning objectives. There, she started picturing her future, imagining herself in retirement: “I knew I never wanted to say, ‘What if I had gone to business school?’” says Wendy. “My motto is to pursue your dreams and live your life with no regrets. I won’t wait to find out ‘what if.’”

Finding Out “What If”: The Path to a Dual Degree

For Wendy, the right answer involved a dual degree in the PMBA and MPAC programs at the Albers School of Business Economics. She was surprised, too, that she didn’t need to have a bachelor’s degree in business to pursue an MBA. Having earned her undergraduate degree in communication from the University of Washington, she could jump right in.

Initially, she began the Professional MBA (PMBA) program at Albers, a part-time evening program designed for working professionals. Because the PMBA allows you to customize your curriculum (with 50% of courses being electives), she was able to use her coursework to explore different subjects.

There, she realized her interest in accounting and auditing, eventually deciding to also earn her master’s in professional accounting (MPAC). The Albers MPAC enables those with non-accounting undergraduate degrees to make a career pivot, preparing for CPA eligibility and other accounting certifications.

She credits the guidance and support of the Albers faculty for helping her find the right path. “When people come to Seattle University, they trust that no matter their background, they’ll be accepted and guided in the right way,” says Wendy. It’s one of many ways she has felt included. “My classmates have come from a range of ages, identities, and professional backgrounds. We’ve all been so welcomed and supported.”

On Educating the Person as a Whole

Wendy considered multiple programs in the Seattle area when choosing a business school. 

“Albers stood out because of the emphasis on educating the person as a whole,” she says.
That approach has been evident in the care she has felt from her instructors. “They aren’t just at the university for their own research. They are actively invested in our success,” says Wendy. “Whether I’m considering a career in audit or asking them professional questions about working for a Big 4 company, they’re always there to guide me.”

Wendy expected her business school experience to feel competitive and isolating; instead, she found a supportive, encouraging community. “That starts with our professors: how they speak to us, treat us, convey information, and cultivate culture within the classroom,” she says.

That care from Albers faculty also shines through their enthusiasm for the topics they teach. Wendy describes her instructors as being extremely passionate about their subjects. She recalls how central collaborative learning and real-world applications were, too: “The course material at Seattle University is always tied so well to actual business scenarios we’ll find ourselves in. We worked together to address real-world problems related directly to the lecture.”

Wendy found it helpful to be able to connect with faculty who share her subjectivity as a woman of color. “There are many barriers set up for us that others may not be able to understand,” she says. “I especially felt empowered by Dr. Valentina Zamora. I have never met someone so passionate about accounting. She told me: ‘Back when I was in your shoes, there weren’t people in these roles that look like us.’ Now I get to learn from her, and I get to show others they can pursue careers in business, too.”

Centering Ethics in Business Leadership

Educating the whole person goes beyond the curriculum. For Wendy, ethics are essential to becoming a business leader. “It’s not enough to focus on the bottom line or driving revenue,” she says. “When you’re stressed and overworked, you can forget to question whether something is right or wrong. The courses I’ve taken at Albers have helped me learn how to center ethics in my day-to-day practice.”

In one course, Wendy recalls learning about the personal component of auditing. “Auditing is a lot of human work,” she explains. “Auditors are independent, expressing their opinions about whether a company is fairly stating their financial statements. Because there are people involved in making those determinations, though, emotions can inform those decisions.”

One way Albers courses focus on ethics is by emphasizing the role emotions play in the cognitive process. One particular lesson that stands out to Wendy involved cognitive bias testing in an auditing course taught by Dr. Gabriel Saucedo. In response to one question, students in her class overwhelmingly said they trusted financial statements from women vice presidents versus men, viewing women as more careful and men as more risky. “That lesson helped me realize that there’s a human factor to auditing,” says Wendy, noting how gender bias impacts auditors.

It’s this human factor—combined with Dr. Saucedo’s excitement and knack for teaching auditing concepts—that inspired Wendy to pursue a career in audit. By being mindful of cognitive bias, auditors and other business professionals are able to make more informed decisions. “You build relationships with your clients, go into their workplace, and ask them questions. You might build a certain degree of trust. But you still need to remember to ask the right questions about the accounts—to step back and hold onto professional skepticism.”

What’s Next After a PMBA and MPAC?

“Seattle University has made me a more well-rounded business person,” says Wendy.  “My education at Albers has made me feel more informed and confident in asking questions: Why is the world like this? Why is the other side feeling like this? What is it that we’re missing? That’s what business has given me: the questioning mindset and the confidence to go out, do the research, and use my experience to make smart, informed decisions.”

Wendy has been working as a billing specialist for DocuSign while finishing her MPAC. There, she has been able to implement a new enterprise resources planning (ERP) system, which helps ensure accuracy within their financial systems. She plans to sit for her CPA exam after finishing her degrees.

As she continues to pave the path of her career, Wendy hopes to inspire other Latinos to pursue careers in accounting and finance. “I feel like more Latinos are needed in business,” she insists. “The Latino demographic in the U.S. is growing, and we contribute so much to this economy. It’s time that more of us take a role in the business world.” To encourage this, she is developing a platform to talk about personal finance, career advice, and her experience navigating the corporate world as a Latina businesswoman.

“Why am I in this world?” she asks. “I’m going to enjoy what I’m doing—and I’m going to make an impact.” 

Considering business school? Wendy says: “Take the Risk”

For others considering an MBA or MPAC, Wendy firmly says: “Take the risk.”

“It’s an investment in your education, but also in yourself,” she says. “You’re investing in your network. In your relationship with professors. In that teamwork experience. It’s an investment that pays off—over and over throughout your life. And you can’t get it anywhere else.”