The news that she had been named Woman of the Year for the 2020 Girls Inc. of Memphis Celebration Luncheon came as something of a shock to Dr. Adriane Johnson-Williams.
“It never occurred to me that I would get this award,” Adriane said recently. “I didn’t think I was at a place in my life or my career where I was worthy of this award.”
Humility aside, a quick look at Adriane’s life and work journey shows that her receiving the award is inevitable. Her academic credentials are impeccable—she studied economics at Wellesley College, got her masters in Secondary Education from George Washington University and a Ph.D. in Education Policy Studies from The University of Wisconsin. But there’s more to Adriane than the impressive letters after her name.
She grew up in the 38126 zip code and became involved with Girls Inc. at a community center in LeMoyne Gardens. She was active at the center until sixth grade and spent her high school years at a boarding school in Virginia.
And it gets better. After decade in urban education reform and educator preparation she returned to Memphis—something she swore she would never do. She found her way back to Girls Inc. where she spent four years on the Girls Inc. of Memphis board, serving on the program committee and then as vice chair before being named board chair, the first alum of the program ever to serve in that position. She also received the national Alumna of the Year award in 2016.
When you consider that the current Champion For Girls Campaign for Growth is a direct result of the strategic planning process she was part of while on the board, naming her Woman of the Year is a no-brainer.
“One of the big parts of that strategic plan was acknowledging the need for reserve funding and a focus on places for girls,” she said. “Our buildings needed work, we needed to invest in our centers. And the program at the farm wasn’t fully built out.”
In the eight years she’s been back in Memphis, her work has taken her from Seeding Success to Pyramid Peak Foundation, where she served as a program officer, and on to LeMoyne-Owen College and a stint as special assistant to the president for strategy and planning. Now she is founder and principal of Standpoint Consulting LLC, a management consulting firm supporting clients to “center those you serve” to help organizations and agencies improve their outcomes.
She uses Girls Inc. as a way to explain what her firm does.
“It stems from the idea that organizations could be more successful if they could center the lived experience of their people,” she says. “A perfect example of that at work is Girls Inc. They listen to girls and they listen to parents when they are thinking about programming.”
And with all her success, nationally and locally, she’s still passionate about Memphis and the organization there that inspired her to be strong, smart and bold.
“I’ve just fallen in love again with the city and the people and just dug in and got to work,” Adriane says. “And some of the work I’m most proud of is the work I’ve done with Girls Inc. I want girls to know that they’re worth this investment. When they walk into one of these spaces I want them to reflect on how much we value them.”
Which is why Adriane is more than worthy to represent Girls Inc. as this year’s Woman of the Year.