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History of Leadership California

How we came to be...

The founding of Leadership California actually started in Texas, in 1983, with a group of women leaders gathered around a kitchen table in Austin.

They were successful women in leadership roles but realized that they just weren’t breaking through to that next level. They got together to talk about why that was happening to them. They figured out two things: they didn’t know enough about the whole state of Texas – only their own field of interest and their own region – and they didn’t know key influencers and stakeholders across the state – they didn’t have the connections beyond their own local sphere of influence.

They then thought about how they could change that and created Leadership Texas. A program that would bring women leaders together from across the state to learn the issues and trends and meet the movers and shakers and knowledge holders making things happen.

The women around that kitchen table were:

  • Ann Richards, the 45th Governor of Texas;
  • Sarah Weddington, who successfully argued the landmark Roe v. Wade case as a young attorney before the U.S. Supreme Court;
  • Liz Carpenter, an aide to Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson and Founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus
  • Cathy Bonner, founder of the first and only women's museum, The Women's Museum: An Institute for the Future;
  • Barbara Jordan, the first African American representative to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas; and others.

In 1988, a few women who were alumnae of Leadership Texas found themselves in California and decided they should start Leadership California.

Fortunately, the couple - George & Ronya Kozmetsky (George was one of the founders of Teledyne) - that provided early funding for Leadership Texas also had a home and roots in California. They offered early financial support to Leadership California’s launch.

There was a development period of about four years, with first program launching in 1992. Through the years, Leadership California has grown and adjusted to best serve the women leaders of California. Today, Leadership California boasts a network of more than 5000 women leaders and supporters, with more alumnae engagement than ever before.

To honor our history and its mission, you can help make our programs available to future female leaders.

Make a Donation

General Giving Contribution

We appreciate having you as a member of our community, and we thank you for your support! Leadership California is a 501(c)(3) organization and your contributions are 100% tax deductible.


Pamela Hemann Scholarship Fund

In honor of long-time executive director Pamela Hemann, Leadership California has established the Pamela Hemann Scholarship Fund to assist candidates for the CIT Program with tuition.