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Koriambanya Carew- Shook, Hardy & Bacon

carewSince she was young, Koriambanya “Kori” Carew has played a role in bringing people together and facilitating tough discussions.

Her motivation is rooted in her own background. Carew, now Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s director of strategic diversity initiatives, was born in Canada to a family from Sierra Leone. She grew up in Nigeria.

In her own family, each of her siblings was born in a different country. Her relatives include people of different ethnicities, religious faiths and languages.

She said her job at Shook allows her to access the skills she has gained navigating those differences.

“Every single day allows me to tap into my education, gifts, talents, what I’m passionate about, what I see as my vision for how I want to contribute to the world,” she said. “I know I’m supremely blessed — not everyone has that perfect combination.”

In Nigeria, Carew said she initially was interested in becoming an aeronautical engineer. She studied electrical engineering in college until a strike by professors disrupted her education, prompting her to come to the United States.

In the United States, she majored in math with minors in physics and chemistry. A professor convinced her to add a political science minor, and she plugged into studying the politics of underdevelopment. She met her husband, who is from Iowa, went to law school at Drake University and eventually settled in Kansas City.

Prior to joining Shook, Carew worked for Fields and Brown, a minority-owned firm in Kansas City where she practiced labor and employment law; and Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice, where she focused her practice on product liability, torts and employment matters. She was Baker Sterchi’s first female partner of color.

In 2012, Shook snapped her up to lead the firm’s diversity efforts.

“I like to say I transitioned from something I loved and was good at, to something I believed I would be great at,” she said. “Thankfully, I was right.”

As a leader, she’s promoted taking a new look at diversity and inclusion.

“We have worked very hard to make inclusion part of our language, to help people understand what it means to walk it out and talk it out.”

She said the conversation isn’t just about retaining diverse employees.

“When we come to work, what we want is to be leveraged. We want to be part of the team,” she said. “[When we ask], ‘How do we engage and advance people?’ We have a different narrative. Now we’re not just looking at numbers. Now we’re saying, ‘What do you need to succeed? How can we help you succeed?’ We start to have a conversation about intentionally investing in and developing people.”

In another initiative under Carew’s leadership, the firm has become more proactive in responding to national issues.

After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, she noted the firm was one of the few nationally to respond to it through a letter from the firm’s chair and in programming honoring the victims.

She said such activities and responses are “making a difference in how people feel and the kind of conversations we have.”