Background on the International Movement

The International Women’s Forum was founded in the U.S. in 1982 by two prominent leaders – Elinor Guggenheimer, a well-known civil leader and philanthropist and Eleanor Norton, a member of the US House of Representatives.

These two women had a vision of creating a networking vehicle that would provide support, professional opportunities and camaraderie for female leaders.

It has grown to include more than 5,000 of the world’s top women leaders. Membership is a cornucopia of the world’s brightest and best – from Prime Ministers to senior politicians, rocket scientists to rock stars, leading medical specialists to Supreme Court judges. There 77 affiliated forums in North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

IWF is an organization which allows women leaders to network globally across borders, across cultures and across the world.

History of Vancouver International Women’s Forum

1995 marked the inauguration of the International Women’s Forum (IWF) in Vancouver; however the process began a few years earlier when Diane Farris attended an IWF conference in New York.

Sold on the concept, Diane talked it up with colleagues in Vancouver – Diana Lam and Kim Campbell. While Kim was otherwise preoccupied (serving in the federal cabinet and then as Prime Minister of Canada), the two started the ball rolling. They soon recruited Carole Taylor, Sally Warren, Mary Collins and Anne Lippert. Despite the enthusiasm of the early adopters, it would be another three years before Vancouver became a chapter of IWF Canada.

At the time it was expedient to join the other fledgling Montreal chapter under the banner of IWF Canada. With the vast distance separating the two cities, it was clear before long that the two groups could never meet regularly and would operate separately.

Soon after, Vancouver executive members set a long-term goal: that of becoming an independent Forum when the chapter reached sufficient size.

This was a natural evolution, given the fact that IWF Forums in the U.S. were organized along state lines. As well, several of Vancouver’s members who had had the experience of membership in Forums centered around one metropolitan area felt strongly about the advantages of independent full-Forum status.

When Vancouver’s membership reached 50, it began the process of seeking independent status. At its meeting in London, England on February 3, 2007 the International Board of IWF unanimously approved Vancouver’s application to become a stand-alone Forum.

The resolution of the Board required that a confidential mail-in vote be conducted by the Washington headquarters with all members of record of the Vancouver Chapter as of February 3, 2007. The result of that vote was an overwhelming majority of members voted for the Vancouver Chapter to devolve from IWF Canada to a stand-alone status. This was followed in June and July 2007 with each member formally transferring her membership from IWF Canada to the newly-formed Vancouver Forum. The Vancouver Forum became a registered Society in B.C., with its own Constitution and Bylaws.

Three years later (in 2010), Vancouver celebrated its 15th anniversary with a gala dinner that featured The Right Honourable Kim Campbell as its guest speaker.

In 2010, IWF Vancouver’s proposal (spear headed by then President, Lynne Kennedy in 2008) to host the IWF World Leadership Conference and Gala was unanimously approved by the IWF International Board – a major accomplishment and sign of recognition for a relatively new forum.

In 2013, IWF Vancouver hosted more than 800 delegates for the 2013 IWF World Leadership Conference and Gala.

The theme of Modern Movements Shaping the World was a perfect fit for Vancouver and its spectacular setting. For three days, the city played host to a who’s who of those who shape the world – architects, artists, communicators, economists, entertainers, environmentalists, financial and legal experts, media, medical experts, planners and politicians. .

Given the Vancouver forum’s beginnings, it was only appropriate that The Right Honourable Kim Campbell provided opening remarks to set the stage for this impressive conference.

From the spectacular opening celebration at Science World to the hugely successful dine-arounds to the closing gala (and lighting of the Olympic Cauldron) at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre, Vancouver’s IWF forum did itself proud.

Vancouver’s nominees into the IWF Hall of Fame included beloved Canadians: Cartoonist Lynn Johnson, Singer/songwriter (and cultural icon) Anne Murray as well as Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller. Two local IWF Members – BC Premier Christy Clark and Fiona McFarlane – also received awards in the “Women who make a Difference” category

Lead by Co-Chairs, Lynne Kennedy and Diane McCurdy, the various conference committee chairs and their volunteers, went above and beyond devoting countless hours and energy to ensure that no detail was too small to be overlooked – making it one of the most successful IWF conferences ever.

Lillie Richardella, Chief Executive Officer, IWF & Leadership Foundation offered these comments after the event: “Nothing could be more gratifying than to hear that you feel your city, your forum, your people and nation were represented well. You had magnificent ideas, start to finish, and you made this the best.”

By the summer of 2014, membership in IWF Vancouver stood at 96.

At the annual General Meeting on November 23, 2017, the membership voted to change the name of the forum to IWF British Columbia; the forum now has a membership of 115.

The mission is to promote women in leadership by providing a platform for female leaders to meet peers in other countries as well as in their own locations. Through international programs and conferences, IWF British Columbia members enjoy enriching and positive exchange.