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Vicksburg’s Brown named Fortune ‘Hero’

Published 11:12 am Monday, June 16, 2014

A Vicksburg native whose aim is to open up science, technology, mathematics and engineering to more women has been recognized by one of the business world’s foremost publications for her contributions.

Tamara Brown, who was born in Vicksburg and graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1989, was named one of Fortune Magazine’s “Heroes of the 500.”

Brown, 42, is the community engagement leader for Praxair, an international industrial gases company.

Brown was selected for founding Tech Savvy, a program that uses hands-on activities to get young girls interested in the STEM careers. She founded Tech Savvy in 2006 with support from Praxair while she was still the president of the American Association of University Women’s Buffalo, N.Y. chapter.

Brown, whose humility is ever-present, said the validation of the project is exciting.

“I try not to think about it a lot,” she said. “I have to say though, absolutely it’s exciting to get the recognition, but I get an extra jolt of excitement when I get a note from the girls and their parents.”

The announcement comes on the heels of an expansion of the program with support from Praxair’s Global Giving Program. After beginning in Buffalo, the program will now include sites in Virginia, California, Connecticut, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Mississippi, at Delta State University. About 8,000 girls have participated in the program since its inception.

The Mississippi site was the first since the Buffalo site to be revealed. Brown was on hand at Delta State last month to get the program going.

“We did some marketing in Vicksburg first, but I went up to Delta State and we had about 220,” she said.

Sue Neumann, vice president of Praxair Communications and president of Praxair’s Global Giving program, said in a statement that supporting Tech Savvy is a priority for the company.

“Ensuring there is a population of eager, focused and high-performing women in STEM fields is vital to our company’s success,” she said. “We are proud to support the AAUW and programs like Tech Savvy that help ensure young women are prepared to meet the complex technological challenges facing the world today.”

Getting girls interested in STEM is not the only goal of the program though, Brown said.

“One of the things that we definitely know that happens in the workforce for STEM is that there is an issue with the retention of women,” she said. “One of the things we do at Tech Savvy is to work with parents and teachers and industrial partners, folks that are proactive about women in STEM, and we really help the girls along the way by creating a positive environment. I do think that’s important.”

Brown credits her background in Vicksburg with driving her to help other girls find ways to enter the STEM fields.

“When I was in high school, I got a really well-rounded education and I had teachers and family — the whole Vicksburg village — that encouraged me to do whatever,” she said. “That’s what we try to do with the girls with regard to their future careers.”

For more information on Brown’s selection, visit Fortune Magazine’s website article at www.fortune.com/heroes-of-the-500/tamara-e-brown-29/.