It is 100 years since the emancipation pioneers in many parts of Europe laid down their lives for the right to vote and over 30 years since sex discrimination legislation was introduced in the UK. Yet still, in the 21st Century there are parts of our Rotary Organisation which do not admit women. Further, for those clubs who do allow women amongst their number, our current female membership is woefully short of being truly representative, yet we have a laissez faire attitude to improve this or, at best, we set ourselves only modest improvement targets. How can this be right?
If one puts aside the obvious social incongruity, denying 50% of our population the right to contribute on a level playing field to their male counterparts compromises the quality of our offering, sets a very poor example of inclusivity but fundamentally is ultimately destructive to the long term future of our organisation. How can we be credible and attract a new generation of Rotarians if we do not reflect within our own ranks the communities we support.
Our life blood and vibrancy depend on us drawing upon the skills, experience and perspective of contributors from all areas of society. We need a balanced view to secure optimal solutions and we cannot achieve this if we second guess the view point or take third hand opinion from, largely, one select group of our membership and ignore direct feedback from other primary stakeholders!
The Rotary organisation has always stood to serve the entire community but more than that: it has been held up as a model of cooperation and best practice. As Rotarians we need to build on this platform and show ourselves to be a progressive and enlightened body if we are to continue to have credibility with our sponsors and beneficiaries. We need to review our attitude to ensure we are fit to embrace and welcome a new type of membership and actively market what we have to offer to those groups in society, the young, women, and ethnically diverse business professionals.
In short, this is not political correctness! This is about opportunity squandered, the impact of which, if we don't right the wrong, will ultimately have more far reaching consequences for the longevity of Rotary than any perceived benefits maintenance of the status quo will have, as preferred by the traditionalists amongst our number!
The Board of RC Amsterdam-International 2005-2006