Mission & history
The mission of the Raleigh Professional Women's Forum (RPWF) is to provide a forum for accomplished, professional women to enhance their personal and professional development through education, interaction, and mutual support. It establishes an ongoing standard of excellence, promotes leadership, and recognizes the achievements of its members.
In 1988, Laura Bingham, Emily Preyer Fountain, Patricia Kerner, Leslie O'Toole, Jan Powell, and Sue Ramsay formed RPWF. All professionals involved in an array of civic and volunteer organizations in and around Raleigh, N.C., these founders believed a forum would provide an environment where business women could engage, inspire, and connect.
The founders wanted to provide opportunities to get together with similarly-situated women, hear from interesting speakers, build friendships, find mentors, and serve as mentors to other women. The original model for RPWF was the Women's Professional Forum in Greensboro. RPWF is only loosely based on that organization, and there is no formal affiliation between the two organizations.
Early on, the founders thought a lot about how to define the mission of RPWF. They considered including a community service component, but rejected the idea as its members were already heavily involved in community service activities. They considered giving RPWF a networking focus, but wanted members to have a reason to come to meetings other than simply swapping leads and business cards. Ultimately, the founders agreed on a monthly format that would include a program comprised of a distinguished speaker addressing a compelling topic, and time to socialize.
The founders wanted the organization to be a diverse one, and so implemented rules to ensure representation from a variety of professions and organizations. In addition, since its inception, RPWF has also sought a membership reflecting racial and ethnic diversity.
In those early years, as RPWF evolved, its mission crystallized. Today, more than 30 years later, and over 100 members strong, RPWF continues to live its mission: to provide “a forum for accomplished, professional women to enhance their personal and professional development through education, interaction, and mutual support. It establishes an ongoing standard of excellence, promotes leadership, and recognizes the achievements of its members.”