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Athena Podcast Series: Young Athena Winner Sharnay Hearn Davis

Interview by Jonathan Kersting

Athena Awards Podcast Series

In this episode of the UPMC Health Plan Athena Podcast we talk to the Young Athena Winner Sharnay Hearn Davis, Founder of The #SistersLiftingasWeClimb Network.

Discover what influenced Sharnay to found the network 5 years ago as a professional support network for women of color. She is now raising seed money to grow and expand the network to reach more women and have an even bigger impact.

Discover more about Sharnay Hearn Davis

Sharnay Hearn Davis is well-known among her peers as beacon of positivity; she has shown grit and determination in paying it forward through community involvement and mentorship. Upon realizing her path and calling to serve women and girls, Hearn Davis was quick to become a leader in the field—quickly recognizing a gap in our region for Black women and stepping in and to fill that space. 
She has committed her life's work to education, social justice, and creating equitable opportunities for all citizens. Her focus on resilient and under-resourced populations or communities is evident in her past and current leadership roles with the City of Pittsburgh, the Historic Hill House Association, Gwen's Girls, and her many volunteer community service roles. She has dedicated her professional career to addressing the issues of poverty as a social work professional, public sector leader, and a dedicated social justice advocate. 

In 2015, she created the #SistersLiftingasWeClimb Network, a group that regularly engages with more than a thousand women of color from the region to support their personal and professional development. Many leaders understood this challenge, but it was Hearn Davis whose leadership abilities allowed her to act and innovate. The #SistersLiftingasWeClimb Network understands that vulnerability is integral to growth and it gives women the space to be exactly who they are. #SistersLiftingasWeClimb provides women of color with a support system to help one another deal with everyday transgressions. Hearn Davis is passionate and committed to leveraging her personal and professional network to create and broker opportunities so that women of color can continue to improve the quality of life for themselves, their families, and the community at large.

Her passion, unsurpassed integrity, and empathy have led her to numerous community engagement, advocacy, and volunteer efforts. When Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto recruited Hearn Davis to join his administration as a community liaison for the Office of Community Affairs, she was called to use her talents to engage individuals, neighborhood groups, families, and businesses to ensure they have access to the information, services, and resources that they need. She continues to use her voice and talents to help people confidently use theirs. In 2012, Sharnay became a One Young World Ambassador, representing the City of Pittsburgh on a global stage. 

Hearn Davis is not just changing the region; she is changing the world—evidenced by her receipt of the 2020 Inspiring Success in Non-Profit Junior Achievement award for her efforts. She also has managed to maintain excellence in her role at Duquesne University. As a mentor for young Women of Color at Duquesne, Hearn Davis has created a culture where women of color feel up for any challenge and she has excelled in her roles with the Center for Catholic Faith and Culture, Center for Community Engaged Teaching and Research, as well as the Elsinore-Bennu Think Tank for Restorative Justice. 

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Slippery Rock University, a Master’s Degree in Community Leadership from Duquesne University, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration also from Duquesne University.