The view from Two Pershing Square is incredible.
From the building at 23rd and Main Street, the Kansas City, Mo., skyline rises up from the windows in room after room. It’s all there, from the iconic Western Auto sign to the majestic Kauffman Center.
“You can really feel the depth and history of the city,” says Michelle Fox, an attorney with Kutak Rock, LLP.
She takes us on a tour of the company’s offices on the eighth floor, showing us rooms that take full advantage of the view. But Kutak Rock believes that these views shouldn’t be saved for corner offices. In fact, the firm doesn’t have any corner offices.
The entire floor plan for their Kansas City location is open — transparent to all
who walk by. Employees who have their own offices have clear glass walls, which several have used as surfaces for diagrams and notes written in dry-erase markers. It’s almost as if you can see into their trains of thought.
Any premium space is reserved for communal uses.
“Everyone is equal here,” says Fox, who has been with the company for four years.
“I think one of the best things about Kutak is the culture of respect. Everything that happens here emanates from that basic core. It was one of the most attractive things to me about the firm. There was this feeling that you were welcome and appreciated. It was really the diversity, the inclusiveness, which is an integral part of the culture here,” Fox says.
“It’s not about statistics or numbers of people. It’s a fabric that is woven into the firm … because the differences of our ideas make us a much better place overall.”
Kutak Rock recently started providing transgender benefits to its employees, one of Fox’s goals when she joined the company.
“Approximately a thousand employees will be eligible. I’m very proud of that,” Fox says.
Her days at Kutak Rock are spent doing consumer finance defense and compliance — essentially protecting companies from liability and exposure in financing, contracts, training and litigation.
She was born in the metro area, but moved around the Midwest in her youth. She remembers being a little perplexed about the lack of diversity in Springfield, Mo.
“I would say, ‘Where are all the other people? Why does everyone look exactly like us?’ My mother would reply, ‘No, this is everybody; it’s different here than Chicago.’ I couldn’t understand that,” she says.
Fox has continued to crave diversity in her life, and she is a board member of the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. She focuses on the Masterminds sessions, where business leaders can share ideas and problem-solve.
She also has a passion for literacy and reading and has served on the boards of local libraries.
“The library is the center of your community. … I think both the Kansas City Library and the Johnson County libraries do an excellent job of being a vital component of our community,” she says.
In conversation, Fox shows that she is smart, kind, and genuine. She talks candidly about coming out in her 20s, and that genuine streak of hers played a strong role in her decision.
“When I realized I was gay, all of a sudden, I felt like my life went from being an open book, being honest, to suddenly a very closed book. I shut down. Everything shifted. I couldn’t tell the truth about who I was with, where I was going, who I was dating,” she says. “When I finally came out, to myself as much as anyone, it was such a freeing experience.”
“It made me open my book back up.”
Photo credit: Landon Vonderschmidt
The Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MAGLCC) is an organization that advocates, promotes and facilitates the success of the LGBT business community and its allies. Learn more at MAGLCC.org.