Photography by Danny Fulgencio.
Shonn Evans Brown recently left her 20-year career as a private practice firm lawyer for a position with the longest title ever: Vice President and Deputy Council for Litigation, Regulatory and Preventive Law at Kimberly-Clark. A graduate of Southern Methodist University Law School, she is chair-elect of the Texas Women’s Foundation. Brown’s husband is a lawyer, and she is the mother of a boy and two girls. The family lives at Preston and Walnut Hill. “I love the area because it’s close to the kids’ schools. I am a community junky. I love trying to make an impact.”
What she overcame: We were a working family. I was the academic kid in the family and sheltered. The family thought was “she’s going to be the one that we’re going to push and she’s going to get out.” I was extremely shy. Even as late as being a first-year associate in a major law firm, my life was markedly different than my peers. I went to fancy restaurants and cocktail parties, with all these people with all this education. And my family life is very different from that. My mom passed unexpectedly in 2016. She was hit by a car.
On discrimination: I was about 13, and I was walking home from school. A carful of white men drove past, called me the n-word and threw orange soda on me. I remember racing home. I was afraid to tell my family. I changed clothes and got rid of the stained clothes. That was the first time I felt different. But I was the one who was going to get out.
Proudest accomplishments: My family. All the accolades, awards and bright shiny lights are for naught if I don’t get being a mom and wife right.
I carry proudly the fact that I received the Distinguished Alumni from SMU School of Law. That was shocking and exciting. SMU was such a big part of my life. I was a good law student, but I wasn’t in the top 10 percent of my class, so to have made an impact in the legal community and for my university to recognize that was magical.
Words of wisdom from her grandfather: My grandfather graduated high school but did not go to college. He was in the Army, and he was an aircraft mechanic. When I went to SMU, he dropped me off. Culwell & Son is in the same vicinity and he told me he couldn’t even walk in that area as a kid. I’ll never forget the fact that he brought me to school there, and I went on to be in student government and a distinguished alum. His advice was, “Don’t stand outside the institution and throw rocks at it. Get on the inside, get a seat at the table and make change from the inside out.” I think about that often.
Why it’s important to have a personal mission statement: About three years ago I got serious about trying to figure out my own mission statement because it was clear that I had a lot of asks. And it was very difficult for me to say no. There are so many amazing organizations, and Dallas is such a philanthropic community, that I found myself going in a thousand directions. I had to sit down and say, “OK, Shonn. What is important to you? If you passed, what would you want people to say about you?” For me, the empowerment of women and girls was top of the list. Education is a game-changer. And the arts are important because it balances your being.
The best advice she’s ever received: Get a squad. I have so many amazing girlfriends.
Her best advice: Don’t take it personally. I love to be underestimated. Please underestimate me so I can steamroll you and take over. I’m African-American, female and a Christian. I start at a deficit. I’ve got to work. In the legal community, we lose women in droves. It’s not when they have kids; it’s when they get to their late 40s, early 50s. They’re exhausted from fighting.
Advice to her younger self: Slow down. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. For example, after my workout today I would have run home, showered, put on makeup and pulled on a beautiful dress. But I was on the couch talking to my 13-year-old, which never happens. She shared information with me. And I thought, “This is more important.”
On work-life balance: I hate that word. A friend uses “work-life integration.” I like that better. You have to be comfortable making that tough choice. What kind of example am I being to my children if I’m not making choices? I always choose them, but that doesn’t mean I have to do everything.
How she relaxes: I need to do something that gets my heart rate up. I need to feel like I’m on the brink of death in a workout for it to be right. I have to think I’m not going to make it, and then I’m so glad I did the exercise.
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