About Us


In 1974, renowned writer, civic leader and philanthropist, Elinor “Elly” Guggenheimer, founded the Women’s Forum of New York. The stated goal: “Bring together women of diverse accomplishments and provide them with a forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences.

By thus becoming aware of their counterparts in all fields, and of mutual interests and attitudes, they can, when desired, speak in concert on issues confronting the total community.” Due to the strength and growth of the founding New York Forum, women leaders across the United States voiced the need for a national network that would allow women of significant achievement, across all sectors, beliefs and backgrounds to unite under a common purpose of advancing women’s leadership.

The National Women’s Forum, created in 1979, with Forums in Atlanta, Chicago, Colorado, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC was the realization of a growing footprint of exceptional American women. They were united in building better leadership through the exchange of ideas,peer-to peer support, friendship and power. As U.S. Forums organized and grew across other parts of the country, many of them, in turn, helped to develop Forums in other states.

In 1982, the Forum expanded globally with the addition of the UK followed by Canada. We are proud the Canadian Forum was a pioneer in helping to establish our global community. In ensuing years, the Bahamas, Israel, Spain and Sweden also joined. The name was officially changed to the International Women’s Forum (IWF) in 1987 and the global IWF headquarters resides in Washington, DC.


Patricia Gabel, who was already a member of the Vermont Forum, founded IWF Canada (IWFC) in Montreal in 1995 with other founding members including Micheline Bouchard, Diane Bussandri, Mary Larson, Lucie Pépin, Dorothy Reitman, Michèle Thibodeau-Deguire and Mackie Vadacchino. The determined founders of IWFC invited other accomplished Montreal women leaders from across various sectors and communities to join them in advancing Canadian women’s leadership and to participate in an international community of women leaders.

In April 1995 at the Mexico City Global IWF Cornerstone Conference, IWFC was officially admitted as a Forum. In Canada, IWFC was formally incorporated and issued letters ofpatent on October 26, 1995 with Patricia Gabel as our Founding President.

As IWFC expanded from its Montreal base, other local Chapters were established across Canada: Toronto (1999), Calgary (2004), Ottawa (2000), Atlantic (2001), Waterloo (2007), Edmonton (2009) and Winnipeg (2022). Vancouver joined in 1998 and became an independent forum (IWF Vancouver) in 2007. Today, IWFC has a membership of more than 750 women leaders from across Canada. These leaders represent the highest levels of the public service, the arts, social justice, business, technology, professional services, entrepreneurship and academia.