Women making history now: 3 we expect to see in the Charlotte history books


This post was written by Gemma Toner, the founder and CEO of TONE Networks. 

As women, we’re all so busy with the daily grind, giving to our families, jobs, friends and communities, yet I continue to be amazed by women I meet and hear about in Charlotte who appear to do twice as much as the rest of us. Charlotte is bursting with successful, philanthropic women, one of the many reasons I chose to introduce my gift to women, TONE Networks, here.

I created TONE, a subscription-based video and social network for highly-motivated women who are short on time but big on personal growth.  I knew, like me, they would appreciate expert tips on everything from workplace and money matters to boosting brain power and rebounding from personal crisis —  all in one place, ready when they need them.

TONE sponsored two women’s events in Charlotte last month, one of them an awards program.  I was blown away not only by the winners but also the sisterhood who came out to support them.  It was a glorious girl power moment. Today, to kick off Women’s History Month, I want to shine the spotlight on a few Charlotte women I think are making history right now.  (A quick disclaimer: I chose women I’m impressed with who aren’t yet household names but, in my opinion, will be. Otherwise, The Queen City’s first African American female Mayor, Vi Lyles, a true powerhouse, leader and inspiration to women of all ages, would surely top the list.)

Like our TONE experts, these three women are passionate about their work, volunteerism, Charlotte and supporting other women. I’m certain we’ll be reading about them in the history books one day.

The Optimistic Community Activist: Dianne Chipps Bailey

Her story: While her day job may be leading the non-profit practice at Robinson Bradshaw, Dianne is both behind the scenes and on the front lines of many major initiatives involving women, philanthropy and community. This Georgetown Law and University of California — Berkeley grad is past president of Women Executives and a founding director/past chair of the Women’s Impact Fund, a grant making collective that has given more than $5 million to nonprofits in Charlotte since 2003. She’s also a married mom of two.

Giving back: Dianne has sat on numerous boards and received almost every award possible but that’s not what gets her blood pumping. She is passionate about extending her influence from the nonprofit sector to community activism and political engagement. She was instrumental in designing and facilitating the “March for Love” in December 2016 in connection with a diverse group of faith and secular leaders.

Helping others: During the march, Dianne met Braxton Winston II. Convinced his voice was needed in local government, Dianne committed countless hours and significant personal social capital to assist with his campaign for City Council at large. Her formal title was Chair of the Committee to Elect Braxton Winston II, but her informal role was counselor, convener and cheerleader-in-chief! As Braxton shared in his swearing in speech, a diverse and passionate group of women were potent fuel for his campaign’s rocket ship.

Her passion: Dianne encourages women to invest in their own leadership through skill development and community service. She reminds them to support other women through mentorship, sponsorship and peership – “your star shines more brightly when the women in your universe discern and achieve their dreams,” she says.

Her advice: She recommends five tools for women to maximize their own leadership: Bag perfectionism. Exude gratitude. Cultivate resilience. Embrace authenticity. Activate audacity. See why we’re so impressed with her? Do good and take a listen to her podcast.

The Do Gooder: Kelly Brooks

Her story:  Kelly, a married mother of two and former marketing exec, created SHARE Charlotte in 2012 with the goal of building an engagement platform that could replicate in cities across the country. SHARE Charlotte makes it fun and easy to invest in the local community by offering simple ways for neighbors and over 400 nonprofits and local businesses to come together to do good. 

How she did it: Through its signature campaigns #GivingTuesdayCLT and SummerSHARE, this organization raises awareness about local nonprofits, increasing the level of community engagement. SHARE Charlotte believes that by doing good, we will create a stronger, happier Charlotte.

Where she is now: Five years later, the organization has helped raise nearly $20 million. In 2016, #GivingTuesdayCLT, SHARE’s flagship campaign, was the largest community effort in Giving Tuesday history, raising $7.2 million. Kelly is making good on her original goal to help other communities do good. In January, she announced the expansion of the successful SHARE Charlotte model to other cities through her new software venture, Share Good.

Her legacy: Before branching out, she even groomed her successor, Amy Jacobs, to ensure SHARE Charlotte was in good hands. Amy, who has led campaigns and programs for SHARE since 2015, became Executive Director February 1. Talk about lifting other women up!

A favorite SHARE bumper sticker: Mean People Don’t Share

The Community Builder (Literally): Dionne Nelson

How she’s making a difference:  Affordable housing is a HUGE issue in Charlotte and Dionne, as the CEO of Laurel Street, a mixed-income developer that builds award-winning housing in smartly planned communities for varying income levels, is part of the solution. Hedream is to continue to provide affordable housing located close to education, employment, transportation, recreation and shopping opportunities to enhance the lives of the residents, many of them women.

How she gets it doneThis Harvard MBA and Spelman College grad uses her 20+ years of experience in real estate development, finance and operations to address affordability without sacrificing quality and finds creative financing solutions to get it done. Described by many as a superwoman, she can talk deals and is truly a respected and trusted voice in every room in the City and Region. Her ability, as a developer, to engage with Charlotte’s leadership and business community, as well as the private and philanthropic sectors, will be a game changer in addressing the affordable housing crisis.

What drives her: The opportunity to do both good and well at the same time. Dionne loves having the opportunity to create something tangible, like housing, that affects someone’s life while having a positive impact on the community. Renaissance West, where Laurel Street served as the lead developer, is a great reminder to her of what’s possible. 

Her latest focus:  She’s exploring new ways to execute more workforce housing for “the missing middle,” people such as teachers and service providers, in addition to traditional affordable housing.

In the community: Dionne is a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission and a board member of Renaissance West Community Initiative, Levine Museum of the New South and YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

Setting the TONE for the next generation

I’m in awe of these women who are leading by example, setting the tone for the next generation and giving back in so many ways. In fact, TONE Networks donates to selected charities through our Clicks for Good program – helping you do good with the time you spend at TONE Networks.

Ready for some personal growth and inspiration from other female trailblazers? Start your free two-week TONE trial here.

Want to know more about TONE Networks? Click here for more information. 


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