Our Story

The Center strives to nurture our Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities by expanding leadership capacity, fostering awareness of AAPI issues, creating a supportive network of AAPI women leaders, and strengthening community. 

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In 1995, APAWLI

was founded by the “Warrior Sisters” who wanted to address the challenges faced by AAPI women and to nurture trusteeship within our communities.

CAPAW History

In corporate America during the mid to late 1990s, very few AAPI women were in prominent leadership positions. Stereotypes about AAPI women, race and sex discrimination, lack of leadership and professional development opportunities, and AAPI women’s beliefs about their own leadership qualities all created significant barriers to providing a seat for AAPI women at leadership tables. To address this dearth of AAPI leadership in corporate America, Martha Lee and 18 other successful Asian American women (who call themselves “the Warrior Sisters”) founded the Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI) in 1995. The overarching goal of APAWLI was to develop, prepare, and support AAPI women for leadership roles in the United States. Since then, APAWLI’s signature program has been its training institute, which each year selects a group of outstanding women to embark on an intensive three-week leadership development training course and complete a community impact project that would positively change the lives of at least 25 people.

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APAWLI commissioned a research study, Leadership Challenges and Opportunities: An Asian American and Pacific Islander Women’s Lens, and worked with the Gallup Organization on the report Closing the Gap on leadership strengths that AAPI women bring to their work and communities. Today, CAPAW has expanded its scope and programming to include not only APAWLI, but also one-day regional conferences and national leadership summits as a way to reach the broader community and impact more AAPI women across sectors in the United States.


“Every action, no matter how small, makes a difference.”

We believe that everyone has strengths and the potential to make significant changes in the lives of others. Our inspiration and logo come from the Starfish Story:

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