Adriane Brown was eight years old in 1966, when she and her brother integrated a previously all-white school in Virginia. By sixth grade, she was class president. She’s been a leader ever since. Brown has been honored with numerous awards including MIT recognizing her with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award and STEMconnector naming her one of 100 Women Leaders in STEM. Brown was President and CEO of Honeywell Transportation Systems and then served as President and COO for Intellectual Ventures (IV). At IV, Brown and her team established Global Good and Research, which is changing the game in global health and development. Throughout her career, Brown has served as a mentor and inspiration to girls and young women, encouraging them to pursue science, technology, and engineering. In this episode, Brown reflects on being uncomfortable growing up and how she used that to find courage.
The Lesson That Changed My Life
Adriane: In a majority white elementary school, I was elected 6th grade class president.
I grew up in Richmond, Virginia. And I was born into a segregated Virginia. I was surrounded by parents who were very supportive. My grandparents lived next door.
Probably one of the most impactful things that made me somewhat fearless was the fact that in 1966, the desegregation of schools was ending. The first year was voluntary and the second year, we would be an integrated school system. My parents decided that my brother and I would go off to this so-called white school. At that time there was still a lot of turmoil going on. I couldn't understand at eight years old, going into the 3rd grade, why my parents were doing this to me. And what I realized looking back on that year is I was uncomfortable, it was a hard thing to do.
But coming out of going through that sense of discomfort, I found courage and strength and created an environment where the next year, when the other kids came, it was a little easier. Just a little bit easier for some because they knew someone had walked before them. And it made me really appreciate what it takes to be the first, what it takes to persevere when no one has done something and you've gotta be the trailblazer. And so I find comfort in being uncomfortable because I know, okay now things are gonna change, now I'm in a place where, maybe, I can make something better.