In 1974, a handful of women brokers in the UK tanker market got together for a Christmas lunch in London and decided to form the Women's International Shipping & Trading Association, a networking organization for women in the male-dominated maritime industry.  Over the years, contacts from overseas were invited to join the meeting and the group expanded across Europe to include women from many other sectors of the industry.

WISTA the Netherlands was formed in 2000 and first hosted an International Conference in 2004 in Rotterdam.