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January 04, 2023

New SEPTA chief equity and inclusion officer wants to help the homeless

Emmanuella Myrthil, a Georgia transplant, seeks to improve company culture and experience for all riders

Transportation SEPTA
SEPTA new Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer Courtesy/SEPTA Media Relations

SEPTA announced the appointment of Emmanuella Myrthil as Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer. Myrthil will oversee the transit authority's commitment to creating a more trusting environment for employees, business partners, and the community.

SEPTA has begun the new year by taking a step toward improving community relations after multiple years of safety concerns and internal tension have made headlines.

On Wednesday, the transit authority announced the appointment of Emmanuella Myrthil as the new chief equity and inclusion officer.

In the role of CEIO, Myrthil will oversee SEPTA's commitment to creating a more trusting environment for employees, business partners and the community. In addition, Mythril will be in charge of programs such as the diversity, equity and belonging strategy and the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, a Department of Transportation program dedicated to serving communities by ensuring there is no discrimination among firms competing for transit contracts. 

"I am extremely proud of SEPTA's diversity, equity and inclusion efforts," SEPTA CEO Leslie S. Richards said in a news release. "I am excited that Emmanuella Myrthil will continue to build on that foundation to further strengthen SEPTA as an organization that is diverse, inclusive, and enables all people to get equal opportunities."

As CEIO, Myrthil's job will also include developing programs that highlight SEPTA's commitment to diversity, creating solutions that help grow the company's cultural relationships and also helping to develop specific training programs for the company, after an initial analysis of areas where the company needs improvement.

Myrthil comes to SEPTA with over 18 years of experience in the transportation industry, after working at HNTB, an infrastructure engineering firm, and the Georgia Department of Transportation. 

For Myrthil, a conference years ago spurred her to follow in the path of civil rights leaders by applying their principles to the transportation sector.

"When this particular position presented itself, the first thing I said to myself when I saw the job description was, 'This job was written specifically for Emmanuella,' because it was literally what I said I wanted to do," Myrthil said. "And the fact that I get to marry what's happening internally and focus on culture and then take what's happening externally and focus on generational wealth. So I think it's the perfect union in how we continue to create and cultivate a good place, a good earth to live on or live in."

Just three weeks into her residency in Philadelphia, Myrthil is eager to help establish a better culture and climate for those who need to use public transportation. She already sees the homeless population from a different position than she had in her 20 years of living in the suburbs outside of Atlanta.

"I'm coming to the city, and I'm feeling excited, and I feel good, and I have access to a lot of things, but I'm also surrounded by people on the street corner who don't have that same access, and I'm already thinking about, you know, what can I do here?" What can I bring here? How can I impact this even just a little bit," she asked.

Myrthil said that walking everywhere and using public transportation as opposed to driving and being sheltered in Georgia was a reawakening of the pervasive problem of homelessness. 

"I grew up in Brooklyn, so I'm not saying I don't have any context. What's happened for me is it's sort of an awakening again, like I forgot what I left in New York," Myrthil said. "So I don't want to say it's a culture shock, but it's a rude awakening again. It's an awakening that is just making me think about how you help because you've forgotten. You know, what can you do now? Now that you see it again, because it's very real."

SEPTA has adopted plans such as the Safety, Cleaning, Ownership, Partnership, and Engagement (SCOPE), which is designed to promote safety and awareness among all riders, and connect those experiencing homelessness with resources.

As she gets more acclimated to Philadelphia and her new job, Myrthil plans to use her position in SEPTA to advocate for those who are homeless and suffer from other mental and emotional problems, especially the homeless population that uses trains, buses, Regional Rail and transit facilities as shelter.