Helping Women and Organizations Build Intentional Leaders

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Leadership America Class of 2019 on the steps of the U.S. Department of the Treasury building, Washington, D.C.

More than 42 years ago, the intersecting ideas that representation matters and there is strength in numbers sparked nine women to co-found the nonprofit Leadership Women. Their goal was to push for equal opportunities and participation for women in leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.

One of those nine women was Ann Richards, the second woman to become governor of Texas. In 1976, after taking her four children to the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, Richards’ daughter asked her, “Where were the women?” It was clear to her child that women weren’t being represented in the history that was being taught or included in the stories that were being told. Richards channeled her anger into action by bringing women together in the fight for gender equity through her nonprofit work, as well as by going into politics herself. 

Wisdom from the Margins: A Call for Inclusive Leadership

Today, Leadership Women, Inc. is an organization of more than 8,000 powerful voices that focuses on amplifying those voices by bringing them together in cohorts to prepare them to lead in complex and confusing times.

“We offer leadership development programming for women of diverse backgrounds and industries to address the most pressing leadership challenges of our day, such as climate change, inequality, healthcare issues, and the lack of affordable childcare” says Linda Crompton, president and CEO of Leadership Women, Inc.

Crompton, a former bank president with 30 years of experience in leading nonprofits, believes that real wisdom comes from the margins, rarely the center. She is convinced that meaningful change happens when women create connections and educate one another about important policy issues. This is accelerated by ongoing learning, and by giving women the ability to call upon anyone within the network to ask for resources, information, or introductions.

The Network Effect: The Power of Building Relationships

Audrey Selden, a Harvard-trained attorney and former Texas state government executive, has a long history with Leadership Women. In 1991, while working at a law firm in Houston, she was tapped by the Ann Richards administration to serve as Assistant Secretary of State. Judge Judith Guthrie encouraged her to get involved with Leadership Women, which Selden says was a career changer.

She has participated in Leadership Women programs ranging from Leadership America and Leadership Texas, which bring leaders together for experiential learning that focuses on addressing today’s most pressing issues, to Leadership International, which connects women globally with travel-study experiences, to Leadership Encore, which marries travel, learning, and networking for leaders looking to stay involved and grow their knowledge and community. 

“The connections I made were not only instrumental in introducing me to state government, but also in helping me to not feel alone in the challenges I faced as a woman of color in a field that’s very male dominated,” says Selden. “At the core of Leadership Women’s programming is a commitment to excellence and to helping women grow their networks. We used to joke that we’re like the good old girl network. The good old boys have had it for a long time, but we’re doing this because we know the power of relationships. We know the power of knowledge. And we’re going to make sure that everybody gets a chance to have that.”


Leadership Women, Inc.

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(202) 352-3385
President & CEO: Linda Crompton


Leadership Women is dedicated to empowering and advancing women leaders by providing transformative programs, networking opportunities and leading-edge information on state, national and global issues.

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