In my July 2, 2013 post, I discussed the Rotary “sex” problem. If you read this blog, you will glean that I am not completely sure Rotary can change some of its past customs from within. I am trying to effect change otherwise. The club I helped form in 2009 had women as four of its first six presidents. There are parts of the world where that would NEVER happen!
Putting women in Rotary leadership positions communicates the message that women ARE welcome in Rotary. Rotary International had its first woman vice president and RIBI had its first woman president last year. I must ask: What took so long? With Ann Matthews and Nan McCreadie in those positions, women should see there are leadership roles available for them in Rotary. However, until the CLUBS and their members become more receptive to and welcoming of women, their percentage of participation in our clubs worldwide will not change.
RIBI has an Equality and Diversity Policy that every club President must sign. However, I have heard it said many clubs just pay “lip service” to that policy — signing it, but not abiding by it. The rest of Rotary does not have such a policy document. I am glad they do not. Although club leadership should be fully open to diversity in membership, Rotary should not use diversity to reprimand clubs or “uncharter” them for not reaching some artificial standard of diversity. If club members are harassing, bullying, or otherwise intimidating female and minority members forcing them to leave their clubs, RI must step in and police the organization. I would also hope the rule of law would prevent such abuse from occurring. Rotary cannot REQUIRE a diverse membership. I submit it surely should PROMOTE one. However, I am not overly optimistic of the full integration of women and minorities into Rotary around the world.
I also don’t espouse Rotary developing or approving “separate but equal” arrangements where there are clubs just for women or minorities, but such “separate but equal” clubs could be a solution to the problem. I am aware of places where women were not invited to join all-male Rotary clubs. So, they formed their own Rotary clubs — clubs which were often more active and successful than the all-male clubs. I have seen ethnic groups band together and form Rotary clubs composed of just members of their ethnic community. Again, such clubs have been successful and prosperous. As long as these clubs are open to everyone and not restrictive of membership, they should be allowed to exist and encouraged to form. What we must keep in mind is that Rotary is about SERVICE, not about ethnic, sexual, or religious diversity. If there are communities unwilling to diversify their Rotary Clubs – SHAME ON THEM! The best solution may be to form new clubs composed of women and minorities. If that needs to be the trend – SHAME ON US! Such a trend is only needed where we have failed to see the benefit to asking these individuals to join our existing clubs.
I have promoted the formation of a Hispanic Rotary Club as well as an Asian Rotary Club in those large minority business districts of my city. Some individuals have acted offended by those suggestions. However, I counter their disgust by pointing out the demographics of our local clubs which have very few Hispanics and Asians, not to mention African-Americans, Native Americans, and other so-called “minorities.” Some times, the failure to integrate is not the fault of our members. Where individuals have problems socializing due to the language, customs and culture of our existing clubs, promoting and forming clubs in these minority communities may allow them to discover the benefits of Rotary and network them with existing clubs for service, both locally and possibly in the homelands of those minority members.
I want my Rotary club to have men and women of all colors, philosophies, and genders because I want to see more hands doing service. Therefore, the only traits I will NOT welcome in my club are laziness, a refusal to do service, a refusal to be accepting of others, and a refusal to open your hearts and minds to the wonders of Rotary. All others are welcome!