Cindy Adamek, Vice President at Linkmedia 360, wrote an article for the Cleveland AAF newsletter about Betty L. Brown who was recently on a panel of “The Mad Women of Cleveland Advertising”.
Betty L. Brown, president of Linkmedia 360, will be retiring at the end of this year. She will be missed. She was a pioneer. That term is sometimes thrown around carelessly; but let us take a closer look. According to the dictionary, a pioneer is “one that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity”. Betty’s career has spanned over four decades.
The advertising industry has undergone many changes during that time and Betty has never shied away from being the first to try something new. In fact, the same thing can be said of her life and attitude in general even before getting into advertising. I have never forgotten the story Betty told me about being in kindergarten and the teacher (for reasons that are mystifying and inconceivable today) asked all of the white children to stand up. Betty stood up. The teacher patiently explained to her that she was “colored”. I love the fact that at that young age Betty failed to recognize any imposed barriers or boundaries that could hold her back. She viewed herself as being no different from the other kids in her class. That viewpoint, and a love and fascination for meeting new people and making friends has stood her in good stead as she embarked on a career.
Things were different back then. First off, women didn’t have careers, they were supposed to stay home and raise a family. Period. So, off she goes to work as a clerk-typist at the phone company. At that time if you had a job, a clerk or secretary was about as good as it got for a woman and a minority. For Betty that was just a starting point in her trajectory to becoming the president of a company. Along the way, besides being a wife and the mother of two boys, Betty was the first African-American to be promoted to vice president at M&F Directory Marketing. She also served on the board of the YWCA and AAF-Cleveland . She actively served on number of AAF committees, including the APOC (Advertising Professionals of Color) and was instrumental in the club being awarded its first $1,000 grant to advance their diversity initiatives. Betty Brown was also the first black woman to be inducted into the AAF-Cleveland “Hall of Fame” and was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business as a “Woman of Note”.
There have been quite a few firsts in Betty’s career (too many to list them all), but if you were to ask her about being a pioneer she would tell you that she did not realize that she was one until after the fact. She was just having fun. We should always remember that if we stand tall today it is because we stand on the shoulders of the pioneers who came before us.