Mar 8, 2023 - News

25 impressive women helping to shape Charlotte in 2023

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Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

International Women’s Day is March 8, at the start of Women’s History Month.

It’s no secret that Charlotte is full of powerful people, each helping to shape our city in major ways. On this International Women’s Day, our staff put together a list of women doing big work right now. It’s hardly a comprehensive list of women changing the city, but just a snapshot.

From TikTokers to social justice leaders, here are 15+ women helping to shape Charlotte today.

Rabbi Judith Schindler

Rabbi Schindler teaches Jewish studies, the Holocaust and social justice at Queens University in Charlotte. Before that, she led Temple Beth El for nearly two decades, Axios’ Katie Peralta Soloff writes.

  • For years, she’s spoken out about and advocated social justice issues such as racismantisemitism and women’s reproductive rights.
  • “As tired as we are, we need to combat hate every time we encounter it, labeling it as dangerous,” she wrote in part in an Observer viewpoint column last year. “The safety of our citizens and of our democracy depends on it.”
Rabbi Judith Schindler
Rabbi Judith Schindler. Photo courtesy of Queens University

Nancy Bullard

The Huntingtowne Farms Elementary School teacher joined TikTok during the pandemic to keep students’ attention during remote learning. Today, Bullard — AKA @mrs.b.tv on TikTok, where she has 3.1 million followers — posts everything from science experiments and lesson ideas to short videos about her family, Katie writes.

  • Last year, Bullard told Charlotte magazine, which named her a Charlottean of the Year, that she especially hopes to reach young girls. Only 28% of STEM jobs are held by women, the magazine noted.
  • “There has always been high turnover in education, and the fact that more teachers than ever are leaving makes me even more determined to stay. I know I’m where I’m meant to be,” Bullard told the magazine.
Nancy Bullard
Nancy Bullard

J’Tanya Adams

Historic West End Partners founder and program director. 

  • Adams is a longtime community advocate, pushing for increased investment in Charlotte’s west side, while also pushing to prevent gentrification, Axios’ Ashley Mahoney writes. 

Go deeper: 25 people making Black history in Charlotte today

J’Tanya Adams
J’Tanya Adams

Mattie Marshall

Marshall has served as the Historic Washington Heights neighborhood association president in west Charlotte for decades.

Mattie-Marshall
Mattie Marshall speaks at the ribbon cutting for The Ritz at Washington Heights. Photo: Alvin C. Jacobs Jr./courtesy of the Knight Foundation

Ruth Woodend and Freda Schlaman

Founders of Samaritan House, a local nonprofit providing medical care and resources to Charlotte’s homeless population.

  • Woodend and Schlaman are united by faith and their desire to do good. When they met in 2003, they shared a vision of providing medical care to people experiencing homelessness, Axios’ Laura Barrero writes. 
  • By 2004, Samaritan House was formed, and by 2005, the respite care program evolved into a home that housed eight people. Today, the facility accommodates 12 people at a time, including those in wheelchairs and crutches.
  • Each guest who stays at Samaritan House is given shelter, food, transportation to and from doctors’ appointments and guidance on how to apply for resources through SSI, Disability, Food Stamps, etc.
Ruth Woodend and Freda Schlaman
Ruth Woodend and Freda Schlaman

Molly Ruggere

Founder of Counterculture Club, a social group that meets regularly to hang out in a safe space where alcohol isn’t the centerpiece. 

  • In a city full of bars and breweries, there are now more options for social butterflies not looking for a buzz, and Ruggere is leading the pack, Laura writes. 
  • Molly Ruggere founded Counterculture Club in 2020. The club is a safe, social setting for people who want something to do that’s not centered on alcohol. It offers a monthly membership, private and group coaching, and alcohol-free events.
  • In January, she hosted Counterculture Festival in Camp North End, a sold-out event with nonalcoholic beverages from local breweries and bartenders.
Molly Ruggere
Molly Ruggere

Corine Mack

Mack is a minister and a longtime advocate for racial equity in Charlotte.

  • As president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP for the last eight years, she frequently leads marches and demonstrations, including in the wake of the police killings of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, George Floyd and Tyre Nichols. 
  • She’s advocated for addressing racial injustice in policing, health, education, the environment and other areas, and has brought awareness to the intersectionality of many social justice issues, Axios’ Danielle Chemtob writes. 
Corine Mack
Corine Mack

Liz Clasen-Kelly

CEO of Roof Above, a local nonprofit working to end homelessness. The organization serves 1,200 people per day between emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing and other services, Danielle writes.  

  • Recently under Clasen-Kelly’s leadership, the organization transformed an 88-unit motel on Clanton Road into permanent housing for people who have experienced chronic homelessness. Roof Above also purchased an east Charlotte apartment complex that it will maintain as affordable housing, including for those experiencing long-term homelessness.
Liz Clasen-Kelly
Liz Clasen-Kelly

Hayley Moran

Owner of Haylo Healing Arts Lounge in Plaza Midwood.

  • Moran opened the all-women tattoo studio in 2015 with the goal to create an environment where artists and clients alike can feel welcome and safe — the antithesis to the misogyny she recalls experiencing throughout her career, Axios’ McKenzie Rankin writes. 
  • Moran specializes in mastectomy art for breast cancer survivors. She views tattooing as a healing art.
  • And while we’ve seen just how radically Charlotte’s tattoo industry has grown in recent years, Hayley is no newcomer to the game. She’s tattooed around Charlotte since the late 90s, including at studios like Fu’s and Immortal Images.
Hayley Moran. Photo: Lora Denton Photography

Mel Fox

Charlotteans love their beer —  but possibly no one more than Charlotte beer influencer Mel Fox. 

  • In 2016, Fox founded Work For Your Beer — an Instagram page of 31K followers that highlights both the craft beer and fitness scene in Charlotte.
  • Most recently, Mel launched Cirque du Biere, the wildly popular aerial arts performance that’s sold out its show at Hi-Wire multiple times, McKenzie writes. 
  • Every performance benefits a local nonprofit. March’s performance benefitted Planned Parenthood. The upcoming (May 12) show will benefit the Charlotte Gaymers Network.

Go deeper: Cirque du Biere combines aerial arts and Charlotte’s favorite pastime — drinking beer

Mel Fox

Ana Ogbueze

The former Charlotte Bobcats dancer founded the adult dance studio NC Dance District in Charlotte, which has created opportunities for many local dancers and choreographers, Axios’ Alexis Clinton writes. 

  • Ogbueze also created a platform through Project Full Out that allows aspiring dancers to find an outlet and perform.
  • Her studio, now owned by Kellye Worth Hall, has produced talented dancers like Charity Holloway, who has made it to Lizzo’s Emmy award-winning show, “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.”
Ana Ogbueze

Tracie and Jennifer Mackins

This sister duo behind Mackins Bridal Boutique in west Charlotte, which offers size-inclusive wedding dresses. 

  • They’re giving back to their community by empowering young people who hope to embark on their fashion design journey through paid internships at their bridal boutique, Alexis writes. 

Go deeper: New bridal boutique opens with affordable luxury wedding dresses in west Charlotte

Tracie and Jennier Mackins

Dimple Ajmera

Councilwoman Dimple Ajmera was days away from her due date, and at her last council meeting before maternity leave, when she questioned city staff’s decision to buy 15 more hybrid diesel buses over all-electric. 

  • The vote ended in a tie, and the city is moving forward with the purchase, but the conversation Ajmera initiated sent a clear message to staff: That if they came back with a similar request again, it wouldn’t go smoothly.
  • Ajmera often challenges city staff when necessary, and she’ll accept their expertise when appropriate.
  • It’s one of the reasons the working mother captured Charlotte’s attention. An immigrant from India, she was the female star on the “millennial council” and was the top vote-getter in the last council race.
Dimple Ajmera
Dimple Ajmera

Jennifer De La Jara

Charlotte Mecklenburg Count School board member.

Jennifer De La Jara’s vote was the only one against the district’s $2.9-billion request to county leaders for the next bond package. Her reasoning? She wanted even more for students. 

This isn’t surprising from De La Jara, who often calls for strong investments in public education.

Jennifer De La Jara

We asked Axios Charlotte readers to nominate the women they believe are the most influential in Charlotte. We received several dozen responses. Here are a few who stood out:

Sarah Stevenson —  Co-founder of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum (now the Sarah Stevenson Tuesday Forum), a civic forum that aims to educate and celebrate Black Charlotteans. Stevenson was also the first Black president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ integrated Parent Teacher Association and the first Black woman elected to the local school board.

Hannah Arrowood — Founder and executive director of Present Age Ministries, a local nonprofit committed to protecting minors from abuse, sex trafficking and exploitation. 

Catherine Wilson Horne — President and CEO of Discovery Place, who is in charge of overseeing Discovery Place’s science, technology, natural history and children’s museums. 

Summer Nunn — A Charlotte native who was recently elected to serve as chair for the Superintendent Search Committee on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. 

Janice Dupré — Executive vice president, human resources at Lowe’s Home Improvement, a Fortune 500 company.

Lisa Landrum — Founder of  RunCLTrun and more recently, middle school and high school training programs with Forward Motion CLT

Rana Cash — The Observer’s executive editor, helping to make local news more accessible to members of the community. 

Sarah Verardo — CEO of The Independence Fund, which provides physical, mental, emotional and spiritual services to wounded veterans. Verardo also co-founded Save Our Allies, which has evacuated more than 17,000 U.S. citizens from Afghanistan since August 2021. 

Pam House — Director of operations at FS Food Group, the restaurant group behind some of Charlotte’s favorites, i.e. Mama Ricotta’s, Calle Sol and Paco’s. 

Go deeper: 20 impressive women helping to shape Charlotte in 2022

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