Meet EMpower's New President and CEO, Cynthia Steele
Cynthia leads EMpower’s global team with enormous passion and purpose. She believes that everyone has a superpower, and that young people in particular “have so much potential when opportunities are open to them.” Though a longtime Brooklyn resident, Cynthia can often be found on a plane, on her way to one of EMpower’s 15 focus countries to have a thought-provoking conversation with a grantee partner, listen to young people’s ideas, or engage with staff from Delhi to Hong Kong, or Directors from Los Angeles to London.
Cynthia embarked on a nonprofit career with a focus on global women’s health, a logical path as, since school days, she loved foreign languages and chances to travel, was a passionate feminist, and pursued advanced studies in international affairs and development. Early on, she was with EngenderHealth, ultimately leading innovation and scaling programs as Vice President, Program Initiatives, and later as Vice President of Resource Development. Subsequently, as Vice President of Programs at the International Women’s Health Coalition, she oversaw grantmaking and international policy programs, implemented its first institutional monitoring and evaluation system, and led initiatives for organizational development.
Excited by the opportunity to help shape a young organization, Cynthia joined EMpower in 2005, bringing her expertise and insights to the issues that women and girls face around the globe, and initiating and leading its strategic focus on youth living at the margins in emerging market countries. Her inclusive, thoughtful leadership style of bringing people together and collaborating with partners helped give wings to the organization’s powerful mission.
Cynthia attended the Senior Executive Program at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and holds a Masters in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a Bachelor of Arts from Denison University. She has spoken and published extensively, the latest being several articles in Alliance magazine including “Finding the Right Path: One funder network’s journey towards racial justice” (coauthored with Denise Shannon, August 2017), and “Communities of Practice: The Multiplier Effect” (coauthored with Victoria Dunning, June 2015). Cynthia chairs the Board of Directors for Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), a groundbreaking organization centering leadership and advocacy of girls and gender nonconforming youth of color to address school push-out, discrimination and sexual violence. GGE has played a key role in the #MeToo movement, and leads Me Too’s young women’s advisory council in NYC and its 10-city expansion strategy.
Cynthia is known for her love of quotes. Here is one of her favorites:
“Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.”
- Leonard Cohen from the song “Anthem”