National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Patricia Brown Jones
Patricia Brown Jones

Location: New Orleans/Baton Rouge, LA
New Orleans/Baton Rouge, LA Weather Forecast Office (WFO)
Job Title: Senior Service Hydrologist




What is your name, and where did you grow up?

I am Patricia Brown Jones.  I was born and raised in Jackson, MS.  I attended Holy Ghost Elementary School and William B. Murrah High School.

Where did you go to college?

I started at Jackson State University as a junior in high school in the Jackson State University Pre-College Enrichment Program.  That program was designed to promote science, technology, and medical studies. I completed my degree in Meteorology in 1980, with a minor in Mathematics.  I studied Atmospheric Science and Technology and Science Policy during graduate school at Georgia Institute of Technology.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in STEM?

I converted to Mathematics from Political Science after the first semester of my freshman year in college.  I originally intended to become a lawyer.  A visiting recruiter for a Law school reviewed the courses in science and mathematics that I had already taken.  He indicated that a mathematics background would be highly preferred for law school acceptance.  I switched to mathematics immediately.

How did anyone or anything you saw in the media influence your desire to go into the STEM field?

I was influenced to study further in physical science by Mr. Richard “Rat” Harris, my high school Physics teacher, and my mother, Mrs. Annie Brown.  Mr. Harris was a no-nonsense teacher for many, many years.  He had actually taught my mother, who had a Science Education minor at the Baccalaureate level.

Looking back to your childhood, to what extent do you believe your interest in STEM was accepted and praised?

I was a very good student in all my studies.  However, my teachers recognized my abilities in mathematics and science very early on and encouraged me to go further.  As I mentioned before, I was enrolled in JSU’s Pre-College Enrichment program after my junior year of high school and after my senior year.  That program was designed specifically to encourage African-American students to study mathematics, science, technology, and medicine.  However, after dissecting that cat, I knew that medicine would not be a choice for me.  I loved architecture, engineering, and mathematics.

When you were in school, what were some barriers or opportunities to express an interest in the natural and physical sciences?

I had very supportive parents and teachers from kindergarten through my under-graduate college years.  Whenever I chose to do a project, I had no opposition.  The only exception was when I decided to switch from Political Science to Mathematics and then Meteorology; my father was a bit concerned about me finishing on time.

Dr. Keith Johnson had been sent to Jackson State University from NOAA to administer and teach in the new Meteorology program in 1975.  I worked for Dr. Johnson as a Student Assistant at the Mississippi Air Pollution Bureau during the 1978-79 school term, which was my junior year.  After that Dr. Johnson recommended that I work as a Student Research Assistant at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) under Dr. Warren Washington during the summer of 1979.  I returned to NCAR to work with Dr. Washington when I graduated in 1980.  After I had completed the first year of my studies in Atmospheric Science at Georgia Tech, Dr. Johnson recommended me for employment within NOAA in 1981.

Current Work:

How long have you been working at NWS?

I will have 36 year of service on May 31, 2017.

What is your current position at NWS?

I am the Senior Service Hydrologist at the National Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in New Orleans/Baton Rouge, LA.  I also serve as the Diversity Focal Point in this office.

Did you start in this position? If not, what was your first position?

I was hired as a Meteorologist Intern at the Weather Service Forecast Office (WSFO) in Atlanta, GA.  After four years, I became a Journeyman Forecaster.  After another four years, I became the Warnings and Preparedness Meteorologist for Georgia.  I was promoted in 1993 to Senior Hydrometeorological Analysis and Support (HAS) Forecaster for the West Gulf River Forecast Center in Fort Worth, TX.  I returned home and worked in the WFO at Jackson, MS for six years, before coming to New Orleans/Baton Rouge, LA the Senior Service Hydrologist in 2003.

Women in STEM Now and in the Future:

Why do you think there are so few women in STEM careers?

I am convinced that women are generally not encouraged to study STEM careers from middle school forward.  Research (and my experiences) has shown that women are not mentored and promoted into higher levels of responsibility as readily once they do enter these careers, even when their credentials are equal or better than those of the men selected.  Research has further shown that women with children encounter bias in job selections.

Why do you believe there should be more women in STEM fields?

I believe that women should be encouraged to study STEM fields as a matter of freedom and the pursuit of happiness, as well as, personal expression.  Women should be encouraged to do whatever work they aspire to and are capable of achieving.

There are several vital reasons to promote this idea:

  • Women bring different skills, life experiences, and perspectives to whatever work they pursue;
  • Women make up approximately half of the workforce;
  • Women live longer generally, which means that they could potentially influence scientific thought longer;
  • Women can serve as role models for other females;
  • Talent is basically not gender-biased; and
  • STEM fields afford women better earning potential.

In conclusion, I do not feel that gender should determine one’s employment choices or upward mobility within any career field.

Do you believe there is a need for more women at NWS? Why or why not?

I believe that there should be more women at all ranks within the organization.

Do you have any advice for women and girls interested in STEM careers?

A recent article I read quoted the United Kingdom’s Higher Education Statistics Agency on gender breakdown of women enrolled in various medical studies.  Though more women were studying in the medical fields, there was a decline in female authorship of scientific papers in medical journals since 2009.  The article further explored the role of wifedom and motherhood on careers.  The overall conclusion was that male-dominated science and technology fields as basically biased.  The same holds true in the United States.

It is not fair to leave this information out when we encourage young women to pursue STEM careers.  It takes a strong mindset to work against such forces.  Young women should be encouraged to seek mentorships at the start of their studies.  Further, young women should be encouraged to develop a good mentorship relationship within their career field, but not necessarily within the NWS.  Young women should be encouraged to join professional organizations and volunteer on committees to increase their visibility.

In what ways have you encouraged young women to explore an interest in STEM?

Throughout my career, I have worked as a mentor to young men and women in science, technology, and mathematics, as well as other fields.  I have encouraged students in schools from kindergarten to college.  I worked as a Mathematics and Science tutor for the former Atlanta Junior College (now Atlanta Metropolitan College).  I have routinely interacted with students at Jackson State University since I graduated in 1980.  I served on several Boards that provided mentorship as a major service, such as the Gulf States Leadership Institute; Boys and Girls Club of Slidell; Junior Achievement; and others.  I have conducted Train the Trainer classes for the Girl Scouts of America.  I participate in Science Fairs and Career Fairs annually, as a judge, presenter, or resource professional.

I worked for many years as the Black Employment Program Manager for the National Weather Service Southern Region.  I also served several terms on the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee for the Southern Region.  As the Southern Region Chairperson for the NWS Employees Organization, I worked with many women in the NWS to resolve employment issues and promote career growth.