California Women’s Leadership Association (CWLA) is a 501(c)(4) statewide organization committed to bringing together influential women to effect meaningful change in our communities and government through education and advocacy.

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 appointed position or become community leaders on subjects of personal importance.

CWLA was founded in 1994 by a group of eight women from Orange County who knew that fiscally conservative, politically concerned women should have more influence and impact in the arena of California public policy. Two of these founding members have since been elected to office: Congresswoman Mimi Walters and State Senator Pat Bates. 

CWLA believes in free market principles that emphasize:
♦ Smaller government and the role of government as a facilitator, not a regulator
♦ Individual freedom
♦ Responsibility and accountability
♦ Economic growth through lower taxes and entrepreneurship

The History of CWLA

The California Women's Leadership Association (CWLA) was founded in 1994 by a group of 8 Orange County women who knew that fiscally conservative, politically concerned women should have more influence and impact in the political arena of California. CWLA was the brainchild of Laguna Niguel elected official Pat Bates and political consultant Carolyn Ben.
Pat Bates and Carolyn Ben became founding CWLA members when they each invited three women to map out the launch of the organization, including Congresswoman Mimi Walters, Hon. Linda Lindholm, Kate Keena, Karon Kaelin, Gail Roseen, and Connie Axen. 
In 1994 there were already far more women on city councils in south Orange County than anywhere else in the county and the state. South County had a robust number of college educated women with extensive business experience, leadership skills and the desire to get involved.


First Signature CWLA Event!

The organization introduces its first annual events with over 350 guests to recognize Women - AND Men - of Distinction in the South Orange County area. In 1996, CWLA held this annual event with a special twist - a fashion show!


The CWLA delegation had the opportunity to meet with Governor Pete Wilson. They were photographed with the Governor during a big announcement and appeared in clips on numerous news reports.


"CWLA has evolved from the vision of eight women meeting in a coffee shop three years ago into a major association of dedicated and dynamic business and community leaders."
​-Pat Bates CWLA President in Summer 1997

In 1998, Hon. Pat Bates was elected to serve in the California State Assembly, where she served as vice chair of the Appropriations Committee and vice chair of the Assembly Health Committee. She was re-elected in 2000 and 2002.



Training Women to Run for Office

CWLA launches Pathways to Power. This all-day training seminar aims to prepare women to run for office, work in campaigns, seek appointive office, or become “behind the scenes” power participants in the political process.

The inaugural program included guest speakers the Honorable Barbara Alby and the Hononrable Marian Bergeson and special panelists including Jean Pasco, Meg Waters, Sheila Benecke, Betty Presley, Hon. Curt Pringle and Hugh Hewitt. These speakers proved to be an inspiration for all women interested in public service.

"For many of our mothers, and most certainly for our grandmothers, women were limited to the most grassroots of participation. They licked stamps, stuffed envelopes, walked precincts, and with no pun intended, “manned” the phone to get the electorate to register and then show up to the polls on election day.
Yes it is very different for many women today - we don’t just campaign for someone else. We run for office or run campaigns, and we frequently win."

- Hon. Mimi Walters

Help us inspire all women, develop new female leaders, and empower viable candidates to lead our great state of California.

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© 2020 California Women's Leadership Association