About Us

Mission Statement

An organization by women for women, California Women’s Leadership Association (CWLA) is a statewide organization committed to bringing together influential women to effect meaningful change in our communities and government through education and advocacy. We are on the front lines of the policy battle on issues important to all women – parental rights in their children’s education, the economic prosperity of your family, safe and clean neighborhoods, revitalizing cities, individual freedoms, and responsibility.

We are dedicated to launching new women leaders into elected office and other key positions of leadership. CWLA develops strategies for those who seek to become part of the political process, whether to run for office, work behind the scenes, attain an appointed position or become community leaders on subjects of personal importance.

The California flag inside the shape of California

Historical Background

Why and How CWLA Came To Be

by Carolyn Ben

In the late 80s and early 90s, South Orange County was in the midst of cityhood formation. Pat Bates was the founding Mayor of Laguna Niguel, Melody Carruth was instrumental in the formation of Laguna Hills, and Carol Gamble in the formation of Santa Margarita – among many other professional women who contributed to the success of what Orange County is today.

While I began my career as a teacher, I left to raise my children at home and become an involved community activist, returning to the work world as an intern for the first woman OC Supervisor. I met Pat Bates while she was serving as Board Member, and I was serving as Executive Coordinator of the South Orange County Leadership Conference. Pat decided to run for state office, and I worked with her throughout the election. While she did not get elected to office that term, we both learned so much throughout the experience.

We learned how tough running for statewide office can be – the importance of financing, a great campaign manager, power politics, and a diverse support system. We also discovered there were very few, real groups that focused on supporting women. At the time, the Lincoln Club of Orange County, a key donor group, was made up of 100 white men and 0 women. Today, the Lincoln Club of Orange County’s membership is over 40% female, with a history of three female Vice-Presidents, and a current female President. What a difference 31 years can make.

After our experience, Pat and I decided to form a women’s support group, much like the Lincoln Club, but for women. We decided to call it – The Conservative Women’s Leadership Association of South Orange County. The name was later changed to what it is today – The California Women’s Leadership Association.

Our Founding Board of Directors grew to include:

  • Mimi Walters
  • Linda Lindholm
  • Connie Axen
  • Karen Kalin
  • Kate Keena
  • Susan Peterson (replaced by Gail Roseen)

We met for several months as a founding board before we took the organization public – discussing goals, bylaws, expanding the board, and how to execute our goal of helping women into political, business, and community leadership roles.

How did the club grow? After we went public, we began to grow rapidly. We held an annual event called The Men and Women of Distinction Fashion Show where legislators, law enforcement, and high profile businessmen and businesswomen were honored. What started once upon a time with two, eight, and then forty women, eventually grew to 160 different leaders and members. CWLA has grown into a valuable resource for personal growth, friendship, mentorship, and a multitude of opportunities.

We are in a very different, yet in some ways, similar time. Individuals cannot define what being a woman is – people want men to compete in women’s sports when our generation fought for Title IX. It is time for women to come together and organize again.

2024 Executive Board

Parmis Khatibi

Parmis Khatibi


Americans are living longer, thanks to medical advancements, but they’re often unable to access or afford care. A daughter of educators, Parmis was exposed to and embraced science early – teaching and treating the underserved is in her DNA. She spends her days with patients fighting opioid addiction and other life-threatening diseases. Away from the clinic, she’s fighting stereotypes and lifting up young women. Dr. Khatibi is a leading expert on mental health and wellness services. She provides clinical care to the most vulnerable community members suffering from mental health and addiction.

Parmis is engaged in solving some of the most pressing issues of our global economy and has served as Chairwoman for the World Affairs Council of Orange County, an Orange County Board of Supervisors Appointee to the HIV Planning Council, and is currently the statewide President for California Women’s Leadership Association and Chair, Generations Council of Farhang Foundation.

Patsy Freitag

Patsy Freitag

Patricia Ann Freitag is a military spouse who has spent the last 20 years as a public servant leader. She is an award-winning ambassador with the Corpus Christi Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a former Naval Ombudsman, and she has served every school, church, and community she has been a part of with her whole heart. She is recognized for her ability to impact lives through active engagement and advocating for the needs in her community.

Patsy is known for her tenacious spirit and loving approach to reaching people regardless of their background, history, or culture. She is a graduate of the International School of Ministry, as well as a recent graduate of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs (also known as LBJ Women’s Campaign School) at the University of Austin. She is a valued no-nonsense leader with an admirable attitude who is always working with the best interest of the people in mind.

Cecilia Hong Park

Cecilia Hong Park

Cecilia Hong Park is an Orange County native with a passion for the intersection of politics and law. Prior to practicing law, Cecilia served as a legislative aide to numerous elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels of government where she served as a Communications Director, Policy Advisor, Field Representative, and Scheduler.

Cecilia is Senior Counsel at the national firm of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP where she specializes in labor and employment law defending companies of all sizes. With a deep passion and commitment to serving the community, Cecilia continues to assist in political campaigns, sits on various community service and nonprofit boards, and coordinates a pro bono legal clinic through her board involvement with the Orange County Korean American Bar Association.

She speaks Korean and French, and received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communication and Communication Management respectively from the University of Southern California, and her Juris Doctorate from Chapman University School of Law.

Meghan McNulty

Meghan McNulty

Meghan McNulty has a diverse background with a Bachelors of Science degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Southern California, a law degree from Southwestern Law School, and is a licensed attorney in the state of California with a passion for lab work. It was during her experience in biotechnology and the medical device industry that she became interested in wealth management. Having been a part of several venture start-ups, Meghan experienced first-hand the value of a coordinated approach to managing wealth. Taking inspiration from the scientific approach, she reached out to professionals and leaders in their field interested in collaboration who also held transparency and integrity as foundational to their business approach. Since 2014, this model has expanded and is now Wealth Advisory Lab.

In addition to building the WAL network and building bespoke wealth solutions, Meghan is active in the community and serves as an Art Commissioner for the city of Newport Beach. She is active on the board of directors of Newport Beach Foundation and New Majority Orange County. She has contributed to Newsmax Finance and has written several op-eds on women in business, forward moving leaders, community issues, and influencers.

Cynthia Kaui

Cynthia Kaui

Cynthia Kaui works as the Executive Secretary for Chula Vista Mayor John McCann and the City Council where she represents San Diego County’s second largest city to the public, businesses, and agencies. Along with handling the Mayor’s calendar and office operations, Cynthia manages all his communications including his press relations and social media. Her other work experience includes being a producer and writer for One America News Network (OAN) and a communications strategist that consulted business owners and non-profit organizations with public affairs and public relations at Focuscom Inc.. Additionally, she has supported multiple private sector companies with their digital marketing efforts. Cynthia has also co-hosted a political podcast and aided numerous state-wide and local candidates with their campaigns.

Cynthia has a Bachelors in Communication from University of California, San Diego and completed Campaign Leadership College in Washington D.C. with the Leadership Institute. She also serves as the President of San Diego Young Republicans, as the Press Secretary for California Young Republican Federation, as the Communications Director for California Women’s Leadership Association & Political Action Committee, on the Impact Council for Women’s Public Leadership Network, and on multiple committees for Lincoln Club Business League.

Cynthia was nominated as an “Outstanding Professional” by the Philippine American Business Improvement and Development (Phil Am BID). She has appeared on Voice of America, OAN, NBC7, ABC10, KPBS, KUSI News, AM870, Gun Owners Radio, several political podcasts, and has been featured in the San Diego Union Tribune and the Times of San Diego.

Board Members at Large

Honorable Pat Bates

California State Senate

Jacqui Nguyen


Honorable Kris Murray

City of Anaheim


Honorable Mimi Walters

Orange County

Linda Lindholm

Orange County

Sara Catalan

Orange County

Honorable Wendy Bucknum

City of Mission Viejo

Carolyn Ben

Orange County

Emily Grant

Southern California Gas