NOIAW was founded in 1980 under the leadership of Dr. Aileen Riotto Sirey by a group of Italian American women who sought to create a national network to support the educational and professional aspirations of its members and to combat ethnic stereotypes by promoting positive role models.
In July 1980 a small group of Italian-American professional women met in a West Side apartment to talk about forming what some of them at the time believed was a ”pipedream” – a women’s organization in which they could share their experiences, further their careers and become role models for younger women.
It was a pipedream, they thought, because of the strong belief in Italian culture that women belong in the home, specifically in the kitchen.
”Our role was always to keep a low profile in public,” said Dr. Aileen Riotto Sirey, a Manhattan psychotherapist in whose apartment the meeting took place. ”We were always women in the shadows.”
Today the pipedream is a reality.
Over the course of our 35-year history, we have worked to counter stereotypes of Italian American women by honoring successful professionals in every field, promoting educational advancement through scholarships, developing career skills through mentoring, and increasing cultural awareness through our Cultural Exchange program.