"My level of confidence combined with my sense of humor has been my key to success.”
– Annie B. Harris
The Brave Voice
Annie B. Harris always looked up to her father. A large group of white men was under his supervision at a plant. It was no easy feat for a Black man in the 1960s, especially in a rural Georgia community steeped in racial oppression. In spite of this, he had a firm, no-nonsense presence that commanded respect. She learned a valuable lesson from watching him earn respect in that environment: “Respect is about the way you carry yourself and how you handle adversity,” she says.
“I learned my strength from watching how he carried himself and how he dealt with people who he knew hated him,” she continues.
She even witnessed it firsthand when she was around the age of nine. “I can remember walking down the tree-lined streets in my hometown, and it was a white neighborhood. We were going to visit one of his other supervisors. I was holding his hand,” she recalls. “And this small white boy ran down the sidewalk, passed us, and called my dad the N-word. He said this to my hero, I mean, my everything. And I didn’t quite know what the word meant, but I knew it was bad.”
Upset, she turned to her father and asked, “Why did that little boy do that?” If he was bothered, it didn’t show.
“And he said, baby, it’s a bad word. It doesn’t mean anything to me. He’s just a bad little boy. He stayed cool, calm, and collected and continued,” Annie says. “And, you know, that’s how he dismissed it. And when I realized what the word meant and how he reacted to it, it helped me build my self-esteem,” Annie says.
Today, Annie exercises her voice fearlessly. Teamwork is important to her, but she doesn’t compromise her own values or opinions in the process.
This means addressing uncomfortable moments with colleagues without backing down. It also means saying no to roles and tasks that aren’t aligned with her abilities, all in all honoring the spirit her father instilled in her.
“My level of confidence combined with my sense of humor has been my key to success,” she says.
Tips for Your Personal Business Toolkit
When Annie was asked by Patricia Cornet to help found WOCIP, it was a no-brainer for her. It was an opportunity to help others with their personal goals and career aspirations. It was a way to break down barriers for women of color in the life sciences.
As a WOCIP member, Annie was surrounded by other inspirational women who gave her a passion for mentoring and supporting others. The experience led her to create a Women’s Empowerment Network at her own company. Here, she shares three key insights to keep in your personal business toolkit.
1. You Must Command Respect
You should demand respect without being offensive. It’s necessary, though.
2. It’s Okay to Disagree with Someone
Being heard does not require you to be submissive or accommodating.
3. Make Sure You Don’t Let Others Intimidate You
You have the right to express yourself and own the space you occupy. Take pride in who you are.
Empowering women of color in pharma to excel in their professional and personal development, WOCIP aims to change lives, and that starts with building connections.
Meet these amazing leaders redefining the life sciences industry for other women of color.
As the ultimate servant leader, Marianne A. Fray sees herself as an advocate for marginalized and underrepresented groups.
Shamika William’s work with HBCUs is influenced by the legacy of her late mother.
Through travel, Patricia Cornet enhanced her global competence, created more value for patients, and challenged the status quo.
Dr. Sharon Monet Sifford Wilson is a powerful matchmaker who helps connect others with the right resources.
Annie B. Harris always looked up to her father.
Keniesha Watford-Woods says WOCIP helped her get in touch with her individuality.
Tope Osiyemi highlights how to honor yourself from her coaching experience.
WOCIP founder, fearless leader, and master connector Dr. Charlotte Jones-Burton shares her greatest leadership moments.
Ambre Brown Morley shares 4 things that she learned about Sisterhood through WOCIP.