Engineering alumna named a Hero of the Fortune 500


Tamara Brown (Courtesy: Praxair, Inc.)

Vanderbilt engineering alumna Tamara Brown, BE’93, has been named one of 50 of Fortune Magazine’s Heroes of the Fortune 500.

Brown, who completed a double major in biomedical engineering and chemical engineering at Vanderbilt, is the community engagement leader for Praxair, Inc. Praxair, a Fortune 250 company in Danbury, Connecticut, is the largest industrial gases company in North and South America and one of the largest worldwide.

Brown was recognized for founding Tech Savvy in Buffalo, New York, a program that uses hands-on activities to get girls in middle school interested in science, technology, engineering and math careers.

The magazine reports it searched Fortune 500 companies for “another measure of corporate success: Employee impact.”

“We went looking for Fortune 500 workers who, unknown to even many of their colleagues, have performed remarkable acts of goodness,” said Fortune’s Catherine Dunn.

Brown founded Tech Savvy, with support from Praxair, in 2006, while president of the American Association of University Women Buffalo chapter. Brown earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University at Buffalo, and an MBA from Canisius College.

“I was very aware of the statistics around women in STEM,” she recalls, noting studies showing that enrollment of women in college engineering classes remains very low, and that even among women who do choose STEM careers, many end up leaving them,” Brown said in a University of Buffalo news release.

In the past year Tech Savvy has expanded to 10 additional cities and grown to partner with industry, academia and community stakeholders, and to inspire thousands of girls and the adults. Brown is now working on developing a nationwide plan and has introduced Tech Savvy Girls on a Roll, a new follow-up effort for girls in grades 10-12 who have completed the middle school program.

Tech Savvy girls gain practical knowledge and build confidence during fun, hands-on workshops led by role models and learn “savvy” success skills such as ethical decision-making and negotiation. Parallel adult sessions equip parents with tools for early college preparation while teachers attend training classes to gain new techniques for STEM education.

In 2011 Brown was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her efforts to engage women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
According to Brown’s Champions of Change blog entry, “For me, Tech Savvy” isn’t just about the event. Tech Savvy is about creating a culture.  There are two key components of such a culture: providing girls with multiple possibilities for their future and an environment – home, school, industry—that is supportive of diversity in STEM,” said the Vicksburg, Mississippi native.

“Sometimes all you need to do is give girls their options, tell them that they can, and provide an environment where they are free to explore,” said Tamara Brown in the Fortune profile.