Q&A with Shereen Bhan: #WLHGC2024

Q&A with Shereen Bhan: #WLHGC2024

As we eagerly anticipate the WomenLift Health Global Conference 2024, we dive into an insightful Q&A session with WomenLift’s Health Leadership Development and North America Director Shereen Bhan. She shares her excitement about the conference’s unique offerings, including skill development workshops tailored to regional needs and the highly anticipated mentorship breakfast.

As one of the curators of leadership courses, what are you most excited about regarding the WomenLift Health Global Conference 2024?  

The Leadership Journey was forged in the fires of the pandemic. We witnessed firsthand what women leaders at the frontlines of health faced. We learned from them. Their experiences crystallized the capabilities which frame the foundation of our Journey. These capabilities prepare women leaders for complexity—not just for leading through planned change, but also through the unknown and unforeseeable. When we gather women leaders and male allies with such a diversity of professional and lived experience, we hear stories about barriers, needs, ideas, and innovations. Each day of the conference will be an opportunity to create community and solidarity, and to gather ideas and inspiration. The WomenLift Health Global Conference will spur us to weave the stories of women leaders around the world into new contextualized leadership frameworks and help us reimagine leadership for a healthier and more gender equal future.  

What unique opportunities do you believe it presents for participants in terms of skill development and networking?  

Our team of facilitators and designers is thrilled to bring an exciting array of skill development opportunities to the conference attendees. All our workshop topics have been chosen on the basis of needs assessments conducted in each one of the regions we serve (East Africa, India, North America and soon Southern Africa). Offerings include everything from anchoring authentic leadership in your core values to recognizing that everything about health is political and that we all need to develop a healthy relationship with navigating organizational politics. Great leaders never do it alone, and if we are to leverage collective power, we need to value inclusive leadership. As we build the muscle for leading more inclusively, conversations might get difficult. How do we to learn to have difficult conversations constructively by understanding conflict dynamics? Finally, nothing will change until our organizations start fostering gender transformative leadership. Our workshops are highly interactive and engaging. Participants will be exposed to theoretical frameworks and applicative exercises, but we keep our teach pieces to a minimum. ​

One of the most unique things about the conference, is something dubbed the mentorship breakfast. Can you provide insights into this?  

The mentorship breakfast has been an incredibly popular element of every one of our in-person conferences in the past. On the second day of the conference, we will host a Mentoring Breakfast as part of WomenLift Health’s commitment to envisioning a world where diverse, accomplished leaders collectively transform global health outcomes. This breakfast gathering will make it easy for early- and mid-career leaders to connect with each other and with senior health leaders at the conference and beyond. Imagine a space full of senior women mentors in health, some whom you may have heard of and want to connect with, and some whose background and experience sound intriguing. Now, you get to sit around a table with them and a small group of peers from around the world, hear their stories, share yours, and pick everyone’s brain in a safe and intimate environment. Our conference provides this unique forum for leaders to connect across silos of hierarchy, technical domains, health sectors, and geography. You can exchange 100 business cards in hallways in hopes of connecting after an event—or you can engage in meaningful dialogue over coffee and breakfast with peers and a mentor. I would always pick the latter!  

What specific skills and competencies that participants can expect to gain through the forums offered at the conference, and how these align with WomenLift Health’s mission?  

Participants can hope to build on a variety of skills and competencies by engaging in the conference. The most important thing to note is that the work of self-reflection and growth is never complete. The panel discussions and workshops we offer at the conference are only one step in every individual’s personal leadership development journey. That said, there is a lot to gain. Participants can expect to gain a better understanding of their core values and more trust in their own abilities, which we hope will enhance their authentic leadership. They can leverage the practice of inclusive leadership to approach relationship building and collaboration with more openness. They can see the value in bringing a broader diversity of perspectives from ideation to implementation. They can learn how to quell that inner critic more effectively and lead from a place of confidence, both by listening to stories of those who overcame self-doubt and by attending our workshop on imposter syndrome.

All of this learning and growing doesn’t come easy and we all make missteps. There is no magic potion, but we will provide frameworks which require reflection and practice. Throughout the conference, we’ll share ways to discover and strengthen a leader’s identity. We will work on enhancing our leadership presence, practice better relationship building, and role model developing others. 

As someone deeply involved in shaping WomenLift health leadership programs, what advice do you have for women leaders attending the conference on how to maximize their experience and take full advantage of the learning opportunities provided?   

Listen generously: and as much as humanly possible. Someone else’s stories may guide the path to your future.  

Connect enthusiastically: Human connection is the single most important thing on the planet. Everything else is secondary.  

Learn with an open mind: Even if it feels new or different, stay curious, stay open. If not on that day, perhaps a day later, you might have an “aha” moment! 

Be Kind to yourself: Extroversion is not everyone’s thing. When it all becomes too much find a place to step away and do what you need to find some peace.  

Stay hydrated and nourished!