IWFA exists because...



The Australian Forum came into being due to the drive and determination of two wonderful women. These forces of nature, are known to many IWF members throughout the world, and go by the names of Helen Rule and Karen Hayes.

In 2011, Helen made a promise. She swore to her Leadership Fellows class at Harvard that she would found IWF in Australia. Helen had experienced the business connections, the leadership support and the unwavering life long friendship that IWF is able to facilitate. She knew that women in Australia would benefit from such a community.

At around the same time, Karen Hayes was in Montréal, experiencing IWF as an organisation of preeminent women who lift as they climb, who leave the door open, who see partnership as the new leadership and she too, knew Australia needed a women’s organisation with a difference.

After deep discussions and vetting by the IWF headquarters in Washington, Helen Rule and Karen Hayes joined forces and together with international members Michelline Bouchard, Lopa Mehrotra and Eileen Henderson, brought 20 Australian women together in a room with a view over the beautiful Sydney Harbour, to explain the value of IWF.


Many of us in that room arrived not knowing what to expect. This wasn't a business network, this wasn't an industry event... this felt more like a group of strong, kind and open women. We looked around the room, smiled, and IWF Australia was born.

The IWF Australia chapter was inaugurated in May 2014, bringing together Australia’s preeminent women leaders from diverse backgrounds. In one sitting, our newly formed board of directors nutted out our mandate, our value and our purpose – and finished the inaugural meeting with time for a toast! Our mandate, to ‘connect as women and grow as leaders’ remains our guiding light to this day and stems from our belief that to enjoy our leadership journeys and to impact to our full potential, we need people around us who truly understand the challenges faced by women leaders from a professional as well as a personal level.



The International Women's Forum connects over 6,500 preeminent female leaders from 74 chapters across 33 countries and six continents. The International Women’s Forum is an unprecedented organisation comprised of women leaders of significant and diverse achievement united to advance global leadership through training, mentoring, and connectivity.

IWF programs advance opportunities for women in leadership while also creating a profound, positive and sustainable change in the lives of women leaders today and tomorrow. We believe the conversation is moving from getting women into power to keeping women in power. Because with women it is often not about 'power'. It is about the purpose, the promise and the people we impact along the way.


IWF Australia forges strong channels to connect our own world-class leadership talent with the vast IWF global network. There is an unwritten rule throughout the cohort, that when a fellow IWF member calls your mobile, drops you an email or arrives on your doorstep, you answer. In accepting IWF membership, we are each answering a call: to share our knowledge and experience, to ‘lift as we climb’ and to think of each other as a ‘professional sisterhood’.


IWF is known for tackling the big issues. As it looks to the future, IWF will continue to prepare, unite and inspire women leaders on a global scale and at a local level through the growth of future forums. Inherent in our programming at both local and global level, as well as in our day-to-day attitudes, is the will to seek ways to inspire young women leaders to identify and achieve their dreams. Through a partnership with EY, the Women Athletes Business Network sees members assisting elite sportswomen to transition into a new career. Locally, we have welcomed the WABN mentees into our membership, believing that mentoring has two-way value and ensuring that our Forum remains relevant and sustainable by embracing the voices of the future.