Meet our Board

2019-2020 Board of Directors 


Charnessa Ridley


Training and Communications Director, North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault 

Charnessa Ridley is a native of Greenville North Carolina with over 12 years of professional experience in anti-sexual violence work. She is celebrating her 6th year with North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA) in Raleigh North Carolina. Currently she is the Training and Communications Director, where she focuses on meeting the needs of rape crisis center staff and advocates through training, education, resource development and resource sharing. She manages the monthly member mailing, designs the agency-wide Training institute, leads the planning of the biennial statewide conference and is a primary contributor to the agency’s social media presence. In her time with NCCASA she has also held the position of Forensic Compliance Specialist and Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator; both roles included exploring systemic approaches that would improve multi-disciplinary responses to victims of rape and sexual.

Charnessa has traveled across the state of NC and abroad, supplying instructions for navigating the challenges of meeting best practices. She has supplied onsite training and technical assistance to over 60 rape crisis centers and a host of allied professionals. She has trained at least 5000 community members and professionals on topics including; Bystander Intervention, Sexual Violence, Trauma Informed Service Delivery, Crisis Line Procedures, Sexual Assault Response Team Development and Sustainability, Neurobiology of Trauma, Court Advocacy, and Hospital Response.

Charnessa received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a minor in Pre-law from Elizabeth City State University, and an Executive Master of Public Administration from North Carolina Central University. In 2018 she became an Instructor for East Carolina University, where she currently teaches Leadership Studies in the political science department. In July of 2019 began her 2nd term as the Board Chair of North Carolina Women United.

She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and served on the leadership council for North Carolina Black Women’s Roundtable

Elaine Martyn

Vice President
VP & Managing Director, Private Donor Group, Fidelity Charitable

Elaine Martyn has dedicated her career to the pursuit of justice, health, and dignity for all through strategic advocacy, policy, fundraising, and grantmaking in the US, Europe, Asia, and the United Kingdom.  She has been a lifelong advocate for refugees, immigrants, medical education and women’s economic empowerment and rights, and has a passion for the arts. Elaine serves as Vice President and Managing Director for the Private Donor Group at Fidelity Charitable®, an independent public charity that has helped donors support more than 240,000 nonprofit organizations with over $35 billion in grants since inception in 1991.  Elaine is passionate about family philanthropy, impact investing, international grant-making and values-based giving, and oversees a philanthropic strategies team who support donors make over $5 billion in annual grants.

Ms. Martyn previously served as vice president of development at Global Fund for Women and leverages her experiences in executive roles at Refugees International, King’s College London, the British Medical Association, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School to formulate strategies which help ultra-high net worth donors achieve their family and philanthropic goals.

Ms. Martyn double majored in medical studies and English literature and communications at Gannon University, and has a Master’s degree in Victorian literature from the University of Leeds.  In 2013, she was appointed as a special international advisor to the U.S. State Department's Under Secretary of Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy. One of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen 2018, she was named one of Save the Children’s Centenary Changemakers for Children in 2019. She has published on topics including equal opportunities, medical education, mentorship and philanthropy. She serves on the advisory boards of Prosperity Catalyst, New England International Donors and Harvard Medical School’s Global Health Advisory Council

Elizabeth Perry

Financial Advisor, Edward Jones

Elizabeth Perry is proud to have grown up in Raleigh, NC and to still call it home. Locally grown, Elizabeth attended elementary, middle, and high school in Raleigh and graduated in 2000 from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Psychology. She holds General Securities Representatives (Series 7), Uniform Combined State Law Examination (Series 66), and life and health insurance licenses. As a Financial Advisor, she collaborates with individuals and businesses to educate and to partner with them to reach their financial goals.

Her journey to Edward Jones started with her first job at IBM. Through her time there and with Lenovo, she found that she enjoyed working on the Finance side of business. After 8 years there, she left to join ADAMA. In her role there, she increased her Finance knowledge as well as her skill in working with others on budgeting and forecasting. Deciding to pursue an opportunity with Edward Jones has allowed Elizabeth to build a business that serves her community and provides a commitment to the vision of her clients.  With a focus on women investors, Elizabeth looks to partner with women to help them achieve financial independence and empowerment. 

As women become key in the transfer of wealth over the next 40 years, inheriting over 70% of estates and $40 trillion, Elizabeth looks to provide education, resources and be involved in the community to serve these women.  Outside of work, Elizabeth takes part in various volunteering opportunities, cycling and fundraising for the MS Society and Alzheimer's Association. She also greatly enjoys her time working at Shepherd's Table Soup Kitchen. Her favorite moments are spent with her friends and family which includes three sisters. She is always up for a once in a lifetime trip whether it be working for Habitat for Humanity in Honduras or going to India for the wedding of a good friend. At the end of the day, her favorite thing is being greeted by her dog Jonas.

Membership Director 


Tara Romano 
Executive Director, NARAL-NC

Tara Romano has been involved with NCWU since 2006, when she co-coordinated the 2006 Wake Women's Agenda Assembly. She joined the board in 2008, and was President from 2013-2017.  Tara has been active in the women's movement in North Carolina for more than a decade and believes that public policy informed by women's actual experiences, and with women's input, is a key component of building a more just and equitable North Carolina. She is the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. In 1999, Tara climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

 Portia Taylor 

Outreach Director
Community Organizer

Portia Taylor is a native of Durham, NC. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she studied psychology, Africana studies, and women’s and gender studies. Portia plans to make a life long effort of using community  experiences and her own intellect to consistently and thoughtfully extend her talents to the social, political, and economic movements of North Carolinians. In her spare time, Portia enjoys wine tasting, culinary freestyling, Grouponing and visiting museums.

Lyric Thompson

Policy Director
Director of Policy & Advocacy, International Center for Research on Women

Lyric Thompson is a women's rights advocate, speaker and professor based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Currently she is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), where she leads the institution’s formulation of evidence-based policy recommendations and manages ICRW’s advocacy efforts with the U.S. Government and internationally. She is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University, where she teaches a graduate level course on women’s rights advocacy.

Lyric is on the board of NC Women United, and leads or is a member of a number of advocacy coalitions on women’s rights issues, including Girls Not Brides USA, the Coalition for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Equality, the Coalition to End Gender-Based Violence Globally, the U.S. Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls. She is on the Editorial Board of Apolitical, and writes regularly on gender and foreign policy for such outlets as Ms., Huffington Post, Devex, The Hill, Thomson-Reuters Foundation and openDemocracy.

In 2019 and in 2018, Lyric was named as one of the 100 Most Influential People Impacting Gender Policy by the public policy platform Apolitical. In 2016, Lyric was honored by Professional Women in Advocacy for Excellence in a Campaign for Women Serving Women, recognizing her leadership advocating with the U.S. government for the world’s first piece of foreign policy dedicated to the rights and empowerment of adolescent girls. In 2011, Diplomatic Courier Magazine named her among the Top 99 Under 33 Young Professionals Impacting Foreign Policy.

Want to join our board? Check out vacant positions below. If you are interested in joining, email us at
Vacant Positions:
Director of Communications 


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