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Captain Gail  Harris

Captain Gail Harris

Retired Highest Ranking African American Female in the US Navy

Captain Gail Harris

Retired Highest Ranking African American Female in the US Navy


Since she was five years old, Gail Harris knew she wanted to serve in the U.S. Navy. Unaware of the existing federal law prohibiting women from going into combat, Gail forged ahead, becoming the first woman in naval history to serve as an Intelligence Officer in a Navy aviation squadron. Having paved the way for generations of women, Harris was the highest ranking African American woman in the Navy at her retirement. Her hands-on leadership was instrumental during every major conflict from the Cold War and El Salvador to Desert Storm and Kosovo. Her hard work, ingenuity and outstanding performance made Gail a frequent traveler to the most challenging assignments around the globe.

A fearless trailblazer, Harris was a formidable force in the Navy. As the first female and first African American for every job assignment she accepted, Harris faced serious opposition from her superiors and peers. With her fierce intelligence and sense of humor, Harris quickly earned their respect. Her memoir, A Woman's War: The Professional and Personal Journey of the Navy's First African American Female Intelligence Officer, follows Harris’s inspirational career, sharing her unique perspective as she completed the complex task of providing intelligence support to military operations while also battling the status quo, office bullies and politics. She has been profiled by both the BBC and Fox News and honored for her work by the Spy Museum.

Harris knows how to turn a goal into reality. Her wisdom and strength shine through every presentation as she imparts valuable lessons in leadership and courage. She knows how to thrive in a hostile and harsh work environment, and her insight and advice can help anyone who needs to overcome a difficult challenge. With her signature charm and energy, Gail Harris inspires audiences from all walks of life to never stop fighting for their dreams.

Speaker Videos

Gail Harris Makes History

Interview with the BBC

Speech Topics

Take Command & Win

In this presentation, Harris shares with audiences how- through hard work fired by courage and persistence- she became the highest ranking African-American female in the U.S. Navy. Harris earned her stripes in the pressure cooker of the intelligence community, and her wealth of leadership skills, tested in the rough waters of the real world, will equip any professional audience for their best effort. Harris can show anyone how to get the most from themselves and from those around them, against all odds.

Cyber Warfare is Here, What You Need to Know In Order To Combat it

Since 2013 in its annual report to Congress, the intelligence community has ranked Cyber as the number one national security threat.  The reality is that the US has been dealing with millions of cyber incidents and attacks a day.  A well orchestrated cyber attack could bring America to its knees.  Our power grids, telecommunications, and banking and transportation infrastructures are at risk and constantly under attack.  About 85% of companies have had ongoing infections with malware. Studies have shown the attackers get in fast and remain undetected for months.  Gail Harris was chosen to be the Department of Defense’s initial lead in developing what role the intelligence community needed to play in the nations’ cyber defense, a task at the time considered impossible because of turf wars.  She successfully collaborated with 30+ government agencies and military commands in defining needs and offering solutions for data management and reporting.  She shares what we need to know to prevent a cyber nightmare.

Understanding 21st Century National Security Threats

Senior intelligence officials have repeatedly stated the US is facing the most diverse array of security threats since World War II. According to our own senior military leaders sequestration has damaged military readiness. What happens is we have to deal with a major crisis now? Do we have forces that are trained, manned and able to deal with a full blown war while also dealing with wars and crises in other parts of the world? In this era of fiscal challenges, do we design a military based on budget limitations or do we design a military based on strategy and fun it with that process in mind? An expert on military operations, Gail Harris guides her audiences through national security in the 21st century.

China, a Military Threat?

Relations with China have come a long way since President Nixon’s historic visit in 1972. Overall there’s been much improvement since the Cold War days; but there are still potentially divisive issues such as cyber and territorial disputes in the Easy and South China Seas as well as their “lack of transparency” on their intentions and military buildup. In this presentation, Harris discusses whether China’s actions pose a national security threat, and how the US needs to respond.

So You Have Reached a New Chapter in Your Life, Now What? How to Make the Rest of Your Life, the Best of Your Life

Captain Harris is a firm believer in the Thomas Edison quote: If we did all the things, we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. In this talk Harris describes how she made the decision to not rest on her laurels and pursue a completely new career as a composer even though she did not have a strong music background. She will share her strategies that took her went from being a 69-year-old military retiree with lots of time on her hands, to a student studying music and composition at The Juilliard School’s Extension Division. During her presentation she will share 7 strategies that show how you too can have a successful Chapter 2 and find success and happiness at any age.