Before the formation of the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) in 1989, groups of women in several distant locations formed local groups with similar goals to advance the careers and opportunities for women involved in international trade. The first group to form was in Chicago in 1985, followed by Los Angeles and Orange Country in late 1985, Washington D.C. and New York in 1986, Bostonin 1987, and Northern California, Detroit and Texas in 1989. Most of these chapters were founded independently and without knowledge of each other. About this time,several of the chapters became aware that there were other similar groups in existence and began talking about joining together in some way. A brainstorming session in the Washington D.C. area resulted in a consensus that a national organization should be founded. In 1989, the first formal board meeting of what would become OWIT was held in Los Angeles. The name of the organization was chosen, officers and directors were elected and other important decisions were made concerning the goals and mission of the organization.
In 1990, OWIT held its first national conference in Washington, D.C. and also published its first membership directory. There were 12 chapters represented in OWIT in 1990: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Northern California, Orange County, San Diego, Seattle, Texas and Washington, D. C. Today, OWIT is recognized worldwide for building ongoing trade relationships within and between global communities. OWIT is present in more than twenty countries in all continents around the world.