Increasing Diversity in Rotary


By Peter Frueh, District Governor 2017-18

My theme this issue is diversity. Not just because of the recent International Women’s Day, but because the future of Rotary International depends on increasing our diversity.

If we think back to the late 1980s when women were finally admitted as members to Rotary, it was a different era. Not just the hairstyles, clothes and music, but social norms. Women’s participation in the workforce was only 45% and generally in traditional roles such as clerical, teaching and nursing. Today the women’s participation in the workforce is 61%, closing in on the men’s 71%.

In the early 1980s, Rotary was a men only organisation, with some positives (think men’s shed) but many negatives such as off colour jokes, stereotyping and a clear sense of who would be a “suitable” Rotarian.

Despite these limitations, Rotary International now has 240,000 women members. The country of origin, religion, orientation and other diversities has moved somewhat towards community levels. Yet women still only make up 20% of members worldwide and 28% in our District. What about in your club?

Where would Rotary be today if those 240,000 women members hadn’t joined?

The benefits of a Rotary club matching its community are large:

  • Over 20% growth in membership by reaching gender equity, plus underrepresented minorities
  • More balanced board and committees which make better decisions
  • Extension of projects into new areas
  • Fuller engagement into all aspects of community life.

A recent Rotary International survey showed that 96% of members felt we needed to promote membership diversity. So the question is not should we, but are we? What is your club doing? What about having a Club Assembly to discuss these issues? It is Your Club - Your Future - so have a say

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