As LIFT’s President, Maria Peña drives innovation and alignment across all aspects of LIFT’s work nationally. Maria joined LIFT in 2013 as Chief Program Officer, and during her tenure she has refined and codified LIFT’s program model and inspired an “impact first” approach to performance management that has led to a doubling of recorded program impact in just two years. Maria also played the central role in driving LIFT’s “constituent voice” efforts, resulting in a groundbreaking member-led evaluation system that has transformed both LIFT and the anti-poverty field more broadly.
Over the past two decades, Maria has established herself as an accomplished business leader and a sought after voice on economic development in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Immediately before joining LIFT, she served as the global head of economic development at Vital Voices, an international NGO founded by Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright to identify and invest in women leaders around the world. Maria led all aspects of a multi-million dollar program portfolio focused on the growth of women-led small- and medium-sized enterprises across more than 70 countries in Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East & North Africa. Before joining Vital Voices, Maria served as the Americas Leader of Entrepreneurship at Ernst & Young, where she led the firm’s corporate responsibility efforts to accelerate the growth of high-impact businesses across North, Central, and South America. Maria has also worked closely with many Fortune 500 companies while serving as a management consultant and risk advisor at Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, and IBM Global Services.
Maria is a sought after speaker and lecturer on poverty, economic development, and women’s issues. She and her work have been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and at the World Economic Forum in Davos. She has also served in several policy advisory roles, including as a delegate to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum on women and the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy (ACIEP). She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Economics and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and young son.