Women of The Bluff – Top 10 Breakers of Barriers and Glass Ceilings

by. Kirstin Cheers

March kicks off another International Women’s History Month, and Memphis doesn’t slack in powerful women calling the shots everyday in their respective fields. There’s a number of women in Memphis – from the nonprofit sector to Fortune 500 companies –  who are demolishing glass ceilings and breaking barriers for the upcoming generation of leaders. Here’s ten women in the C-Suite at their jobs who we’d like to honor and salute this Women’s History Month: 

1. Monica Wharton, Methodist Lebonheur Healthcare

The name ‘Wharton’ is a familiar one in Memphis, but Monica Wharton isn’t one to fall behind the shadows of name recognition. As Chief Legal Officer of Methodist Lebonheur Healthcare, she oversees the strategic direction for the non-for-profit healthcare system in the areas of Legal, Compliance and Risk Management.Growing up in New Jersey, Monica is a graduate of Hampton University and William and Mary Law School. Before transitioning to health care, she practiced employment law at Glankler Brown law firm. She is known as one of the sharpest people in the city, always reaching for solutions and not dwelling on the problems. She’s married to Andre Wharton, son of former Memphis Mayor, A.C. Wharton – hence the last name. She’s well respected in the city whose reputation precedes her around the county.

2. Ursala Madden, City of Memphis

"Everyone knows what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant to Memphis, the nation and the world, but it was special to be able to share what he meant to his precious children and family," says Ursula. "It was a great moment."

You didn’t think our awesome mayor was leading Memphis on his own, did you? From his speeches to his media appearances, you have a woman to thank for making our mayor looking exceptional – Ursuala Madden. Ursula’s claim to fame started way before taking over as Chief Communications Officer for Mayor Jim Strickland. She was a main anchor on WMC-TV 5 for over 17 years, leaving the station with an Emmy and a wealth of Memphis knowledge and experience. In 2016, she was hired and created the first Office of Communications for the City of Memphis, being the first person ever to hold that role. The team handles public relations, marketing, and media relations for the City as well as The City Council. Ursula is a native of Oakland, California, but we’re so happy she’s made Memphis her city of choice!

3. Emily Callahan, St. Jude

Image result for Emily Callahan, St. Jude

It makes all the sense that a woman would be behind the world-class marketing, videography and digital reach of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Emily Callahan, Chief Marketing & Experience Officer for ALSAC, oversees the development of marketing, brand and communications strategies that we all get to see on our televisions and cell phones everyday. She also oversees ALSAC’s Corporate Social Responsibility Platform and event experiences for St. Jude supporters. Under her leadership, St. Judge has been named the Health Not-for-Profit Brand for five years by Harris Interactive. She continues to lead one of the top brands and workplaces for millennials and Gen-Z to work. We all love St. Jude, and we have Emily to thank for that. Before joining St. Jude, she worked as Vice President of Global Marketing and Networks for Susan G. Komen. A native of Oklahoma, Emily received her bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in journalism/public relations and a master’s from The University of North Texas in marketing/management.

4. Patrice Williamson-Thomas, Shelby County Schools

It takes a heavy hitter to manage people and day-to-day operations of an entire school district. That’s why Patrice Williamson-Thomas is the best at it. Patrice serves as the Chief of Staff of Shelby County Schools and was appointed to the position by Superintendent Joris Ray in 2019. Previously, Thomas served under Mayor Lee Harris as the Chief Administrative Officer, and worked under the previous four mayors of the City of Memphis in various roles. According to Chalkbeat, she was the city’s youngest and first African-American comptroller, deputy director of public works and depuy chief operating officer. A native Memphian, she’s no lightweight and we’re excited to see what she does next. 

5. Casey Condra, Orion Federal Credit Union

There are so many hidden gems in the city, and it’s Casey Condra’s time to shine. A graduate from the University of Arkansas, Casey got her degree in journalism, advertising and public relations in 2001. Less than 20 years after walking across the stage, she now serves as the Chief Marketing Officer for Orion Federal Credit Union here in Memphis. She brings over 10 years of political and non-profit consulting work from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started Orion in 2017 as Director  of Marketing and Business Development.

6. Bathsheba Sam, International Paper

As Vice President of Human Resources for International Paper, Bathsheba Sams offers over 35 years of experience in the forest products industry. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, she’s worked in fields ranging from engineering, manufacturing, business and corporate human resources. She’s an alumni of Leadership Memphis 2004, and recognized in 2017 as a “Super Woman in Business” by the Memphis Business Journal. She’s held board positions including serving as chair for NEXUS, executive board member for the National Civil Rights Museum, and a member of Memphis in May and Memphis Tourism. 

7. Pamela Clary, Community Capital LLC

Pamela Clary is another force in Memphis who people should get to know. With a MBA from LaSalle College in Philadelphia and a B.S. from Drexel University, Pamela currently serves as the vice president and partner for Community Capital LLC, a local firm that provides affordable housing and community development consulting. She was recently reappointed to the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority where she’s served since 2014. She’s a longtime Memphian and an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 

8. Ivette Butron Ramos, Butron Media Corp and La Jefa 99.3 FM

What started as a presumed vacation turned into a full-time job for Ivette Butron Ramos. Ivette had done journalism in Mexico City, but quickly transitioned into radio in Memphis. She was young, eager and willing to learn and dive into the media. She would later meet her husband and work between Orlando, Nashville, and Little Rock. After meeting with a former boss from Memphis, both Ivette and her husband decided to return to Memphis and jump back into Radio Ambiente with the hopes of buying it one day. And they did in 2018, purchasing the signal for WGUE La Jefa 99.3 FM adn 1180 AM. She is the first in Memphis and the second Hispanic in Tennessee operate and own entirely a radio station. Ivette manages the station alongside her husband under their business Burton Media Corp. 

9. Jozelle Luster Booker – Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum

Jozelle Luster Booker is the second child of seven children and grew up on  300-acre estate owned by her family. She spent most of her childhood indoors because her father believed girls were responsible for chores while the boys worked outside. She comes from a long line of entrepreneurs who instilled in her the business acumen and hard work she possesses today as President of the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum. She studied marketing at The Jackson State University in 1980. She worked as a temp in Memphis after graduation, and took a job as a typist with Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW) in 1986. Over the course of three decades, Jozelle became the company’s first supplier diversity officer. She retired in 2017 and joined the MMBC Continuum as president. She’s tasked with building relationships and counseling entrepreneurs, business and community leaders with advice on leveraging and creating economic growth that could combat the poverty many face in our city. She’s on the cutting-edge of implementing real change in Memphis and inspiring leadership around the world. 

10. NeShante Brown, Soulsville Charter School 

Ever wondered who was the driving force behind the success of The Soulsville Charter School? Yep, it’s a woman. NeShante Brown serves as the Executive Director of one of the top performing charter schools in the city. With over 100 percent college acceptance rate, Brown leads by an example of excellence for her students and staff. A native of Memphis, Brown’s been serving as ED since 2005, but got her start into education as a math teacher with Memphis City Schools. With a master’s from Christian Brothers and a PhD from Vanderbilt University, it’s no wonder why Soulsville continues to make headlines across the county.

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