Five Questions with Sheena Wright

January 09, 2020
Sheena Wright, the first female CEO of United Way of New York City, shares how she leads her teams to enact measurable impact across the city.

1. As the first female CEO of an 80-year-old organization, what do you do to help other woman achieve their goals?

I am so proud to lead this dynamic organization; our Executive Team is made up of a diverse and driven group who are primarily women. I am surrounded by leaders who are passionate about the impact we can make through the caring power of our donors. Bringing other women into important conversations creates a learning environment where we aren't afraid to fail, where we collaborate on how to improve and support each other. I believe this all starts with listening carefully to the people around me and making sure that everyone has a space for their voice to be heard. Throughout my career, I dedicate time outside of my “day job” to talk with other women who want support and mentorship on their own leadership journey. I am grateful that many strong women continue to do this for me, and supporting other women is an act of gratitude to all those who have done the same for me.

2. Who in your life inspires you?

My mother is one of my very greatest inspirations. She was a teenage single parent, raising us in the South Bronx while working, going to school and trying to make ends meet. She fought hard to make sure we had everything that we deserved, while at the same time growing up herself. The obstacles that she overcame define so much of my life, and how she never gave up is truly incredible to me. What became my mother’s illustrious career includes founding a national organization and receiving numerous national recognitions for her contributions to community. Her commitment to her family, her community and her education is a testament to the power of determination and inspires me every day.

3. How has your childhood personal experience shaped your leadership style?

Women create incredibly powerful communities, and this very often happens outside the workplace walls. When I was a little girl, there were many times when a family in my neighborhood had a problem and needed help. I distinctly remember those moments of need and how the women I knew so well would respond: they all came together. In a neighborhood that didn’t have anything to spare, they pulled whatever resources they could and helped the family in need. This experience helped me appreciate the power that women so often choose to use: the power to help each other. At an early age, this instilled in me a belief in distributed leadership: everyone comes together to solve problems. As a leader today, I see this experience in our powerful Women United Affinity Network. The 700+ members of Women United come together regularly to support our community and truly embody the idea that empowered women empower other women.

Women create incredibly powerful communities, and this very often happens outside the workplace walls.  

4. With community needs being vast and diverse, how do you work to solve such complex challenges?

We must start with the belief that problems can be solved. We appreciate that complex problems are interconnected: there is no “one solution” to solving any issue. Our approach is about understanding the complexity of problems. We design interventions that address the root causes, not just the symptoms, and coordinate interconnected solutions using the resources of the entire community. Our job is to knit solutions together and bring to life a coordinated response. This model is why we are proud to have outsized impact across the city: our ReadNYC Program in Mott Haven changed the trajectory for that community, within 5 years going from 9% of our third-grade students reading on grade level to now over 48%. Just as important, we see a mindset shift across this community about what is possible. There is still so much more to be done: our job now is to make these results city-wide, scaling impact and the belief of what is possible when we work together.

5. What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be in such a hurry, change takes time! And you must celebrate your successes along the way.

Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. (“BBH”) may be used to reference the company as a whole and/or its various subsidiaries generally. This material and any products or services may be issued or provided in multiple jurisdictions by duly authorized and regulated subsidiaries. This material is for general information and reference purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or investment advice and is not intended as an offer to sell, or a solicitation to buy securities, services or investment products. Any reference to tax matters is not intended to be used, and may not be used, for purposes of avoiding penalties under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, or other applicable tax regimes, or for promotion, marketing or recommendation to third parties. All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed, and reliance should not be placed on the information presented. This material may not be reproduced, copied or transmitted, or any of the content disclosed to third parties, without the permission of BBH. All trademarks and service marks included are the property of BBH or their respective owners. © Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. 2021. All rights reserved. PB-04908-2021-11-03 

As of June 15, 2022 Internet Explorer 11 is not supported by

Important Information for Non-U.S. Residents

You are required to read the following important information, which, in conjunction with the Terms and Conditions, governs your use of this website. Your use of this website and its contents constitute your acceptance of this information and those Terms and Conditions. If you do not agree with this information and the Terms and Conditions, you should immediately cease use of this website. The contents of this website have not been prepared for the benefit of investors outside of the United States. This website is not intended as a solicitation of the purchase or sale of any security or other financial instrument or any investment management services for any investor who resides in a jurisdiction other than the United States1. As a general matter, Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. and its subsidiaries (“BBH”) is not licensed or registered to solicit prospective investors and offer investment advisory services in jurisdictions outside of the United States. The information on this website is not intended to be distributed to, directed at or used by any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to law or regulation. Persons in respect of whom such prohibitions apply must not access the website.  Under certain circumstances, BBH may provide services to investors located outside of the United States in accordance with applicable law. The conditions under which such services may be provided will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis by BBH. BBH will only accept investors from such jurisdictions or countries where it has made a determination that such an arrangement or relationship is permissible under the laws of that jurisdiction or country. The existence of this website is not intended to be a substitute for the type of analysis described above and is not intended as a solicitation of or recommendation to any prospective investor, including those located outside of the United States. Certain BBH products or services may not be available in certain jurisdictions. By choosing to access this website from any location other than the United States, you accept full responsibility for compliance with all local laws. The website contains content that has been obtained from sources that BBH believes to be reliable as of the date presented; however, BBH cannot guarantee the accuracy of such content, assure its completeness, or warrant that such information will not be changed. The content contained herein is current as of the date of issuance and is subject to change without notice. The website’s content does not constitute investment advice and should not be used as the basis for any investment decision. There is no guarantee that any investment objectives, expectations, targets described in this website or the  performance or profitability of any investment will be achieved. You understand that investing in securities and other financial instruments involves risks that may affect the value of the securities and may result in losses, including the potential loss of the principal invested, and you assume and are able to bear all such risks.  In no event shall BBH or any other affiliated party be liable for any direct, incidental, special, consequential, indirect, lost profits, loss of business or data, or punitive damages arising out of your use of this website. By clicking accept, you confirm that you accept  to the above Important Information along with Terms and Conditions.

1BBH sponsors UCITS Funds registered in Luxembourg, in certain jurisdictions. For information on those funds, please see

captcha image

Type in the word seen on the picture

I am a current investor in another jurisdiction