Meet Karima Sharif | HBA

Meet Karima Sharif

Karima Sharif
group VP, Publicis Health Media
HBA chapter: HBA Philadelphia
Current role with the HBA: global chair for Women of Color (WoC) affinity group

I volunteer for the United Force for Change because we are all human and we are all equal. Being Muslim, there is no preference by race or gender. “Men and Women have an equal reward for their deeds.” The United Force for Change pushes that agenda and aligns with my core beliefs for gender parity for all women.

How has volunteering has impacted your career? These past two years have been amazing. Not only did I co-create the Women of Color affinity group that went from regional to national and now global, but I have also been able to lead programming and initiatives in the midst of a pandemic, within and outside of the HBA, focused on advancing the narrative and development for women of color. Our Women of Color affinity group events have averaged over 145 attendees. 

It has also been nice to be acknowledged and honored with the Marie Curie award for Innovation in 2019 and 2020 for my efforts.

What has been your favorite HBA event to date? Now that is a hard question. Before the pandemic, I enjoyed many of the HBA regional and national events such as HBA Philadelphia’s “Dine Around” and the HBA Woman of the Year event. However, the HBA Annual Conference is by far my favorite. I remember my first attendance was in 2012 in Orlando (about two years after I had joined the HBA.) It was live and it was exhilarating. I was in awe with the programming, the venue, the energy and most importantly the caliber of women all in one place. I did not hesitate to introduce myself to Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, HBA's 2011 Woman of the Year recipient, to connect and give her “her flowers.” That is a colloquium used to show respect and praise to someone while they are still here or in your presence.

Then there was last year’s HBA Annual Conference. It was virtual (thanks to the pandemic) and it was exhilarating for many reasons. One being that myself and other Women of Color affinity group leaders were instrumental in the programming and networking. We worked extremely hard to get Minda Harts, the best-selling author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know To Secure A Seat At the Table and HBA board member Jhaymee Tynan for keynote conversations on leadership, courage and using your voice and vision to advocate for women of color.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from a fellow volunteer? I have to give a special shout-out to Vanessa Nortey, the global deputy lead for the HBA’s Women of Color affinity group. In the past two years of working side-by-side with Vanessa, she has exhibited graciousness and tenacity, two qualities that I admire. An invaluable lesson I learned from Vanessa is that no matter the background or whatever difficulties lie ahead, never stop pushing yourself to the next level and never stop being a supportive friend. She is part of my squad.

My favorite part of volunteering for the HBA is connecting with like-minded men and women to build my “squad” but also allowing me the “safety net” to push me out of my comfort zone. Many do not believe that I used to have trepidation for public speaking. Through hosting and being a lead speaker for many of our Women of Color and DE&I events within my own company, I welcome opportunities to let my voice shine. I have now hosted meetings with over 300 audience members.

I applied for my current role with the HBA because I wanted to push my leadership boundaries. I am currently transitioning from the HBA Mid-Atlantic regional lead to the global lead for the HBA Women of Color affinity group which excites me. It allows me to continue to be an integral influence on the HBA’s DE&I strategies and expand my network at a global level. 

Only three percent of black women are doctors and or CEOs/executives. We are also burdened with the health inequities such as three times higher maternity mortality rate than white women and 31 percent breast cancer mortality rate (the highest of any ethnicity). Therefore, the Women of Color affinity group will continue to shape and change the narrative for women of color, specifically for black and brown women in the healthcare industry. 

What would be your advice to someone thinking about joining or getting more involved with the HBA? Being a member for more than 10 years, I am happy that I have joined such a wonderful organization where my volunteering efforts have catapulted me from assisting at live local events, to being a mentee as part of the mentorship program, training the HBA Philadelphia team on social media and now leading a global affinity group. I remember past HBA mentors would talk about getting involved and making volunteering work for you and they were so accurate.

I have also been lucky to work for companies that believe in women’s leadership and aligned with the HBA’s values. Make sure your company is aware of the value of the HBA and get them to support you and your volunteering efforts even if it is paying for membership as part of professional development and taking advantage of the programming and networking events.

Follow me as I take over the HBA social media accounts on 23 April. 



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