Zonta International History
Over the decades, Zonta International has grown into a worldwide service organization of executives in business and the professions working together to advance the status of women. There are more than 30,000 members in more than 1,200 clubs in 67 countries all over the world.
Inspiration and Founder
While working in a prominent role at the Buffalo Express at a time when women rarely held leadership positions, playwright and journalist Marian de Forest conceived the idea of an organization that would bring together women in executive positions. She envisioned a strong network that would help women reach their rightful places in the professions.
Zonta's first club was chartered in Buffalo, New York on November 8,1919. Membership grew rapidly. By 1920, a confederation of nine Zonta clubs had formed with 600 members.
Helping Shape Women's Lives in the 20th and 21st Centuries
While Zonta shared a common vision with hundreds of women's clubs in the first part of the 20th century - encouraging women's teamwork, courage, risk-taking, and self-reliance - it also represented something of a departure.
Zonta's strict business and classification system required its members to be employed at least 50 percent of the time at an executive or decision-making level in a recognized business or profession. In addition, each club could have just one member per business classification, a requirement that ensured clubs would consist of "experts" in a broad range of fields. The founders foresaw the benefits of having clubs made up of architects, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, executives, doctors, government officials, lawyers, pilots, scientists and more. This diverse expertise meant clubs could offer their communities and the world optimum service, backed by a broad range of understanding and insight.
One of the first service organizations to understand women's unique role in achieving world peace, Zonta International continues to promote justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Zonta Clubs still select, fund and participate in community projects fundamental to promoting women's economic self-sufficiency, political equality, access to education and health care and the elimination of violence against women.
Each year, Zontians dedicate thousands of volunteer hours and millions of dollars to affecting these changes, while the Zonta International programs funded by the Zonta International Foundation impact these issues on a global level.