By Gianluca D’Elia
While her friends were traveling to the beach for spring break of their senior year of college, journalist Sharrie Williams was scheduling visits to local television studios near her hometown in Georgia. But the hard work paid off for Williams, who started her career at local TV stations in Tennessee and Alabama, and eventually became a co-anchor for 6abc Action News in Philadelphia, the country’s fourth-largest television market.
As part of Rider’s Homecoming Weekend, Williams spoke at an Oct. 28 event with the Women’s Leadership Council. She moderated a panel titled “My Style is My Strength,” in which she spoke about the importance of authenticity and having a “personal style” to succeed as a leader.
“I’m very blessed to come from a home where my parents taught me all you need to do is be yourself — it’s a message I’ve heard since I was a child,” she said in an interview with The Rider News. “But at the same time, there are always people in the world that are telling you differently, that you maybe should do things differently or be someone else. People constantly question who you are, or why your name is what your name is, but there’s a lot of power in owning your individuality.”
Williams said staying true to herself has helped her in the media industry because her authenticity is reflected in her work. She noted that journalists who come from minority backgrounds have a unique opportunity to find stories that might not be on the radar of other reporters.
“If you have a connection to these groups of people who have stories and are comfortable talking to you, that’s part of the work and that’s part of the rewarding part of journalism — that maybe people who have felt silenced see someone they identify with, who they can open up to,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to be true to who you are. We’re not here to just report news. That’s part of the work as a journalist, to take people into things they haven’t even thought about.”
Williams also shared career advice with a group of female students at the event, admitting to them that she could have worked at Chick-fil-A for the same amount of money she was making at one of her first journalism jobs.
“It’s inspiring to see how hard work and dedication pay off,” said senior public relations major Olivia Lee. “Sharrie is not only passionate about her work, but she cares about helping other young women reach their career goals.”
Williams said, “If you really get into being good at what you do, people will notice and see the qualities you bring to the table. Maybe in the beginning, the pay is low and rocky. But if you stay at it and stay passionate, people will realize that and give you more opportunity.”
In Williams’ case, her hard work led her to move up through the ranks of the industry quickly. She has covered major newsworthy events, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Shaquille O’Neal’s departure from the Miami Heat, and the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
“I’m thankful that I work in an industry that makes a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “People get information that impacts them, their daily decisions, and how to best react and respond to things. We only know what we know. You can get perspective from somewhere else that you had no idea about. There’s nothing like knowledge.”