The inaugural Women's Summit was founded by Kati Machtley and presented at Bryant College in Smithfield, RI on Monday, September 15, 1997. The Women's Summit was created to explore the impact women would have in the workplace in the 21st century, with a focus on work-related stressors that disproportionately affect women.
The first Women's Summit was coordinated by The Public Forum Institute with Senator John Chafee as the Conference Chair. Sue Herera was the keynote speaker with Hazel Henderson and Joanna T. Lau as highlighted speakers. The 1997 Women's Summit was sponsored by the following: AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, GTECH, Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, Manufacturing Jewelers & Silversmiths of America, Dr. and Mrs. James A. Norton, and Aramark.