WIIT was founded in 1987. The very first meeting to discuss its founding was attended by about 20 women. At the time, it definitely felt like there was a “glass ceiling,” so we wanted to talk about how we could create our own network.
Our concept was to try to help women professionally as well as personally. The initial group included women who worked on the Hill, in the administration, and at embassies; attorneys; and company and association professionals.
We started out talking about this new idea and how we might be able to create an informal network called Women in International Trade. Then one of the late arrivals, a West Coast-based attorney, told us that this was not really a new idea — there was a group called Women in Trade in LA! That helped to cement our resolve and reinforced that we were on the right track. At that point we all were volunteering our time, so the attorneys helped with our articles of incorporation, and the rest of us shared our Rolodexes (no email yet!) and started contacting our friends and colleagues to start this new organization.
Robin Lanier (WIIT President 1990-1991) and I had the pleasure of opening the first bank account — and deposited our own two checks to get things started. After that very first meeting we never had a moment’s hesitation that this was the right organization to attract all types of women who are working in trade policy. And right after starting WIIT, we reached out to the similar organizations on the West Coast and in Chicago to start OWIT.
–Julia K. Hughes
Co-Founder and first President of WIIT (1987-1989)