Government leader

Penny writes about: Foreign Affairs, Gender, Politics

Penny Abeywardena is the Founder & CEO of Soft Power Strategies, Fellow-in-Residence at NYU’s McSilver Institute and leadership strategies contributor at Forbes. She’s senior advisor to multiple global institutions including The Elders and GWL Voices. She’s held leadership roles in philanthropy, non-profit, government, and multilateral institutions for more than 20 years. Her contributions have been recognized and celebrated by the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the French American Foundation, among others. She was appointed to the rank of Knight in France’s National Order of Merit by President Macron for her global leadership on diplomacy, human rights, and sustainability.

From 2014 to 2022 Penny was the Commissioner for International Affairs for the City of New York where she led the agency serving the world’s largest diplomatic corps. Prior to her role in government, Penny was the Director of the Women’s program at the Clinton Global Initiative (2009-2014), where she advised multinational corporations, philanthropists, NGOs and multilateral institutions to increase investments in gender-focused development initiatives.

Penny is currently on the Board of Directors of the FHI360, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the United Nations Democracy Fund. She is a TED Ignite Fellow and serves on advisory councils for APCO Worldwide, the 92Y Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact and Vote Run Lead. Penny’s recently served on the board of the United Nations Development Corporation (which oversees US-based real estate), the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (which provides oversight of the UN Foundation), the International Peace Institute, the Aspen Institute’s Digital Equity Advisory Council, and was co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Cities of Tomorrow. She has her Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and undergraduate degree in business from the University of Southern California. Penny lives in New York City with her family.

Cities and local governments have proven their critical role in realizing a sustainable and equitable future. But we have so much more to do. Let’s make sure that we continue to have a seat at the table.


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