The 2021 Wise Women Project features interviews and portraits of women over 50 with the goal of recognizing the many ways women contribute and provide inspiration to our community. These are their stories. Want to participate? Learn more here.

How old are you?  Almost 55.

What is your profession/work/passion today?

I’m a lawyer. I work with owners and operators of senior housing and group homes on fair housing issues. I also consult with governments around the world on issues relating to the built environment. My passion is helping people do good things, and doing things that make a big impact.

How has this evolved as you have become older?

I started out being a trial lawyer. I saw myself as a fighter. It was a high-adrenaline job in a male-dominated environment and I had to find my own way of existing and communicating in it. Over time, I realized that the environment wasn’t very healthy for me. I had defined what I thought was my path, but realized that (1) the adrenaline was addicting, and not in a good way, and (2) no matter how much I helped any one client, it wasn’t a fulfilling enough pursuit for me.

We had an opportunity to move to Nairobi, Kenya, so I retired from my law practice and found myself in an environment where I could help on a much deeper and larger level. I started working with young people to teach them about human rights. From there, we moved around the world and I combined my previous law background with the new-found passion to help on a large scale. Now I do things like helping people fully realize their property rights, creating a safer city for people in an earthquake zone, and promoting age- and disability-integrated neighborhoods.

What does the profession/work/passion you do/have mean to you especially at this stage of life?

It’s important to do big things. To reach beyond ourselves and do something that means more than just a paycheck. I am very happy now doing things that are meaningful to me and to others, and feeling like I’m making a difference. I also like that I’ve designed a lifestyle that lets me enjoy all that Boulder has to offer!

What is/has been the biggest roadblock to you in your profession/work/passion?

Myself. For a long time, I was caught up in what I thought I should do, or what I didn’t think I could do, or what others wanted me to do. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really been working hard to define what I want for myself and to have an expansive view of my abilities.

Michelle_PinkowskiHow did you/are you pushing past that roadblock?

Through spiritual growth. I am continuing to work everyday to become more myself and to recognize my true abilities as a spiritual being.

Share a favorite inspirational quote.

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“Remember, ability hinges upon willingness.  Ability is indestructible.  Ability is always there.  You can always do things.” ~ L Ron Hubbard

Advice to women over 50 who might want to get involved in your profession/work/passion?

Do it. Our 50s are the time to let our true selves shine through and to experience our power. Be bigger.

Why did you decide to participate in the WISE WOMEN Project?

The idea that women in their 50s have a level of confidence and wisdom that can help guide and/or inspire others really touched a chord. The idea helped me to articulate what it is I like about where I am now, and for that I am grateful and desirous of being a part of it.