Cynthia Steele ’76

B.A., Denison University, 1976
M.A., John Hopkins University, 1980

Executive Vice President
EMPower
Brooklyn, NY

Key lines of Cynthia’s career were grounded in the studies and passions that she pursued at Denison: foreign languages and culture (she spent her junior year abroad in France and was involved with the international students association), and an abiding commitment to women’s rights (she was a teaching assistant for Women’s Studies). Cynthia’s professional and personal life has been one of service to those who are marginalized. She has traveled across the globe — to 60+ countries — to support human rights and poverty alleviation for women and youth in developing countries.
Currently she is Executive Vice President at EMpower—the Emerging Markets Foundation, which supports 90+ local organizations that create opportunities for at-risk youth in 15 emerging market countries. She oversees grantmaking, program initiatives and foundation relationships, and co-leads organizational strategy and management. Her global team is based in New York, Boston, London, Hong Kong, India and Turkey.
Previously, Cynthia was Vice President of Programs for the International Women’s Health Coalition, an advocacy organization focused on women’s and girls’ rights, where she directed the regional and international policy programs. Earlier, Cynthia worked at Engender Health, an international health organization, including six years on the executive team in two roles: Vice President for Resource Development, and Vice President for Program Innovations.
Cynthia currently chairs Boards of Directors for two organizations; Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), based in Brooklyn where Cynthia lives, which is committed to lifting up opportunities for and leadership by girls of color; and the Funders Network for Population, Reproductive Health and Rights, which includes the major philanthropies funding reproductive justice in the U.S. and globally. She is, or has served, on international advisory bodies related to philanthropy or women’s health and rights, and has published and spoken extensively on these themes.
Cynthia has a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and attended the Senior Executive Program at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.
She is married to Joseph Dwyer, a former colleague who teaches leadership and management at Columbia’s School of International Public Affairs, and has a daughter, Alexa, who works in Washington, D.C.