When you think of women in research careers, beer probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. It is for Harris, who, as head of consumer insights for Anheuser-Busch, oversees market research for the entire United States, hoping to win over consumers one cold one at a time.

Make way for women

Harris is proud of the ways her company has championed gender equality in the workplace. “This diversity,” she says, “brings fresh perspective and ideas to the ways in which we create new beers and products, our communications development and go-to-market strategies that no longer alienate women.”

Though she notes that women in analytics have too often been capped at junior-level positions, she sees “tremendous progress” overall. “Societal norms continue to be challenged,” she says, “as more women realize the potential for career growth in science and research related fields.”

Build a skill base ​

“Market research is constantly evolving,” Harris says. “I’ve been in the industry for nearly 20 years – I remember the excitement of conducting research online for the first time. Now, we’re utilizing neuroscience and facial coding to measure response instead of surveying respondents about their reactions to advertising.”

Because of the ever-changing nature of many fields, Harris encourages any young woman interested in a research career to build a strong foundation in both statistics and project management. Once you have that knowledge base, she says, “let your curiosity run wild to build your intuition and formulate your outcomes. The data may be black and white, but the power of the insight is nestled in the gray.”

The importance of mentorship

“I can attribute a significant portion of my success to several inspiring women who have been, and still are, both mentors and friends,” says Harris. “While we all have a bit of superwoman in us, we can't go about it alone. Mentors offer guidance, perspective and wisdom in constructive ways.”

But the exec cautions against overly formal programs that can end up feeling more like a “check-the-box exercise” than what a mentorship can and should be: “an authentic commitment — a sense of reciprocity — to help each other grow, dream bigger dreams and create connections to achieve our goals.”