For more than 80 years, Rotary’s Bylaws stated that members shall be ‘men’ of good character in professional occupations. This was done because, in the early 1900s, most jobs outside the home were held by men only. In 1989 at the Council on Legislation, delegates realized that women were now having careers beyond the home, and were now in those same professional occupations alongside their male counterparts. The Council voted at that time that membership shall be open to both genders.
As we look at today’s businesses and professional occupations, we see that in many cultures, men and women hold these positions equally. As it was in the early 1900s, Rotary should reflect the make-up of the community in which it resides. Clubs are strongly encouraged to invite both males and females to membership.
As I’ve visited many clubs around the world, I have seen firsthand that the clubs who have become dual gender are the stronger Rotary clubs. I don’t say this because I think it is the women who have made the club stronger. I say this because clubs that are balanced with diversity of gender (as well as race, religion and classifications), are generally stronger clubs.
Men and women have different strengths, different talents, different management styles and different ways of dealing with situations. It is this mix of differences that gives the club the ability to get things done most effectively. The all male or all female clubs are missing a great opportunity that diversity brings.
Now and then we hear from all male clubs that they are “open” to women, however they “haven’t found any” to invite. To that I say….open your eyes!