Rotary Convention Highlights Diversity And Features Service Above Self
As the Rotary International Convention wraps up here in Hamburg, diversity takes center stage. The last general session of the four-day convention focused on the value and importance of diversity.
The question is whether Rotarians were really listening. In the United States, Rotary once argued all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to exclude women from the organization. Fast forward 30 years and diversity and inclusion are center stage–as they should be.
Internationally, however, there are countries where men and women have separate clubs and others where women are routinely excluded. There are rumored to be some clubs in the U.S. that are not friendly to women or minorities. The message for such clubs could not have been clearer–such practices do not represent the Rotary.
Even 30 years on from the admission of women to Rotary, no woman has ever been chosen to head the international service organization. In part, this reflects the fact that by rule and tradition, it takes about 36 years in Rotary–on average–to become an RI president.
The organization is looking at the possibility of changing some of the rules around tenure and experience to shorten the amount of time required for a Rotarian to join the senior ranks. Not only would this accelerate the path for women it would bring to leadership individuals less steeped in organizational tradition and inertia, making it more flexible and innovative.
General Secretary John Hewko announces the value of Rotary’s volunteer work.
Yesterday’s sessions focused on service, celebrating the fact that each year, Rotarians donate about 45 million service hours, worth approximately $850 million.
During the afternoon, I took the opportunity to visit the convention trade show area known as the “House of Friendship.” There, I found all sorts of inspiring projects being promoted, including five nonprofits that have been featured on the Your Mark on the World Show–three of which didn’t have or at least I didn’t know had any connection to Rotary.
The three were African Clean Energy, Smile Train and Luminaid.
Four years ago, I featured LuminAID founder Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork on the show in what has proven to be one of the most popular episodes ever. You can watch that episode here.
Judith Walker of African Clean Energy was featured on the show almost four years ago after I met her through the Miller Center’s GSBI. African Clean Energy builds high-efficiency clean cookstoves that also generate electricity. Watch the old interview here.
Smile Train fixes cleft palettes around the world. The organization has been featured on the show twice over the years for its innovative approach, most recently in 2016, when CEO Suzannah Schaefer joined me two years ago.
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