Dr. Leah Newkirk Meunier on “Leaning In”

We are pleased to feature our very own Leah Newkirk Meunier, Ph.D. in an upcoming Lean In Panel, a sold-out UWATX signature event sponsored by St. David’s HealthCare.

The panel is based on the concepts laid out by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, in her groundbreaking book, Lean In, which discusses how embracing a career and a healthy family life are applicable to both women and men.

In the book, Sandberg argues that 21st Century challenges are going to be best tackled by people who can stay at the top of their games professionally while not sacrificing their ability to be great parents and spouses. This panel will offer valuable thoughts on how to “lean in”—thoughts that are important for people of all ages and at all stages of life.


When asked about her take on Lean In, Leah offered insight about those who have inspired her to achieve great success in her personal and professional life.

“When I think about the women who paved the way for me to achieve all that I have, my husband’s 95-year-old great aunt, Honey, comes to mind. She was leaning in before it even had a name. As a Chinese-American immigrant and a woman who was not permitted to attend college or learn to drive a car, she had very little opportunity presented to her, but singlehandedly ran not one, but two businesses!”

Dr. Meunier is the head of our Women’s Leadership Council and director of the Early Childhood Business Alliance and Major Gifts Program at United Way for Greater Austin. She has been with UWATX since 2009 and is a dedicated wife and mother of two.

When asked about work/life balance, she candidly recounted stories about long nights where she wrote her dissertation between 2:30 – 6:00 a.m. because it was the only quiet time she could find between teaching at The University of Texas and caring for a toddler.

“My father always told me, ‘You’ll get it done, standing on your head.’ His words stuck with me and continued to motivate me to give each project my absolute all.”

Leah is currently spearheading an innovative program called “Pay for Success.” This new structure for financing community problem-solving aims to significantly change the way social interventions are funded and scaled to meet growing community need.

Pay for Success” is a promising new practice in which philanthropic and private risk capital are used to fund health and human services (most often in a preventative fashion) that have been shown to produce real results, while also reducing the financial and societal costs associated with remediation.

Dr. Meunier has also served as program manager for Success by 6 and as Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s appointee to the City of Austin Early Childhood Council.

Thanks to Leah’s leadership, thousands of underserved Central Texas children are now receiving quality early childhood education. As a result of her vision and collaborative spirit, many more will realize that opportunity in 2015.

As if all of this weren’t enough to make for a more-than-full-plate, Leah is also serious about her health and running and recently participated in the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

According to her husband, Leah is “superwoman,” and always finds time to support their children with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities like soccer practice and music lessons.

Those who know Leah will attest to her can-do attitude and stylish flair. She is an impressive lady to say the least. We can’t wait to hear more from her and others at the Lean In Panel.

Interested in joining one of the most powerful female coalitions focused on early childhood in Central Texas? To learn more about the Women’s Leadership Council, contact Leah at

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