This story was the first in a series of stories highlighting women who are making an impact on Lancaster and Fairfield County. All six articles can be found on the Lancaster Eagle Gazette’s website.
Throughout her career, Carri Brown has worn many different hats in the private and public sectors.
Brown began her career with The Limited brands before becoming the Fairfield County Auditor’s financial administrator.
Brown said her time as the auditor’s chief deputy of finance helped prepare her for her next role as child support director and, eventually, the role as Fairfield County Administrator.
“I learned so much and found myself developing this passion for public service, and enjoying the multiple departments and services that are part of county government,” Brown said. “When the opportunity came to become the child support director, at that time I felt as if everything in my life was coming together in a perfect way… where I could combine these skills in finance, with the skills relating to serving children and families.”
Being the county administrator doesn’t come without its challenges, however. Brown said she herself has experienced bias even as the county administrator, whether that bias is conscious or unconscious.
However, she added that she uses these moments to learn how people perceive concepts like the glass ceiling differently
“I would find it terribly interesting to dig into why that perception is different and try to figure out ways to address that perception,” Brown said. “Whether it is making sure we are supportive of each other and providing opportunities, or even just the ways that we approach each other in meetings and how we are prone to stereotypes.”
Brown said the perspective of the “glass ceiling” for women changes from generation to generation, making the issue constantly evolving as the years progress.
“Certainly it meant something different to my grandmother and my mother, to me, and even to my daughter and my granddaughter,” Brown said. “It will mean something different to them because the ways discrimination come about change over time. And that is a good thing – it is changing over time and we’re doing better.”
Brown said having women in leadership ultimately benefit the companies or organizations they work for, beyond general productivity and profitability.
“There is a way to bring other ways of thinking, a way to bring problem-solving,” Brown said, “a way to be supportive, and also bring about buy-in with your full population with the decisions your organization is taking. I do think everyone is more successful when you do have women in leadership roles.”
Brown said changing the perspectives of others will eventually lead to eliminating conscious and unconscious biases in all workplaces.
“I think at a time when discrimination will be more subtle when it comes to women in the workplace, it’s important to understand those perceptions and the differences as to how that’s perceived,” Brown said. “Obviously we have women in leadership roles. How they are perceived in those roles is a more interesting question to me.”
In 2019, Brown was named the recipient of the 2019 Athena Award, recognizing women leaders within the community. She said she uses the award and its meaning as inspiration and reassurance.
“I can tell you I look back on that day quite often, and in times perhaps when I’ve been a little down or feeling a bit of the pressure of the world,” Brown said. “I can tell you that I’ve been lifted up by the concept that others have been thinking about me in one way or another and have an expectation, and that expectation is to help and serve others.”
Brown encourages young women aspiring to become leaders to seize every opportunity that comes their way.
“Know that it’s important to take risks,” Brown said. “What might seem terribly risky now, 15 years from now may be the best decision you’ve ever taken. It might not be, but it’s OK to take the risk. It’s OK to fail, because without failing, you’ll never know what you can learn from it so you can succeed.”
Brown has served as the Fairfield County Administrator since 2013. She retired in March before being rehired by the Fairfield County Commission to continue serving in her role.
Brown has worked in public service for over 25 years of public service, has worked with the county’s juvenile court, is a member of the Ohio Practitioners’ Network for Fathers and Families, is a commissioner for the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood and is a member of the Ohio University Lancaster coordinating council.
Additionally, Brown has been a member of the United Way of Fairfield County’s executive board and is a former Multi-County Juvenile Detention Center board member, among numerous other activities. She also holds a PhD in organizational behavior and management.
About the ‘Women of Impact’ series
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette featured women who have made an impact in our community. The series coincides with USA Today’s highlighting of Women of the Century.