By John Ore, Rotary Club of Tempe South
The issue of diversity is certainly front and center nowadays.  For years, America has promoted, and in some cases, demanded diversity.  Federal programs like Affirmative Action, and Federal court orders have often resulted in more animosity than equality.  Not long ago, diversity simply meant racial diversity.  Next came gender diversity.  Now it even includes gender identity and sexual preference. 
Rotary has been a world leader in diversity since its founding.  A look at the progress made by Rotary’s Polio Plus campaign, and a myriad of Rotary Foundation service projects around the world demonstrates diversity beyond what any government mandate would require.
Paul Harris was a pioneer in many ways.  In fact, Rotary was actually founded on the idea of diversity; vocational diversity.  Paul Harris called the first Rotary meeting because as a lawyer, he realized that he didn’t know many people other than other lawyers and some judges.  For over a century, with a very few exceptions, no two members of any Rotary Club did exactly the same thing for a living.  As Rotary became an international, this vocational diversity spread to every corner of the world.  And that international growth brought ethnic and racial diversity.
As Rotary grew in size and in its ethnic and racial diversity, it did so without women.  Interestingly enough however, in the late 1980s, it was Rotary’s culture of diversity that led to that monumental change in the organization.  Women were suing Kiwanis and the Jaycees, demanding admittance.  And they won!  But because Rotary was considered a “private” organization, it was not included in the finding of the court(s).  Rotary had to change from within, and so it did, when the Rotary Club of Duarte, California fought to admit women as members, and won.  In its finding for the Duarte Rotary Club, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that admitting women would present Rotary with a broadened opportunity for service.  But in the decades since that decision, women have presented Rotary with much more than just that.  Women have brought all their skills and leadership ability to the organization, to the point that the current International President is a woman.
President Jennifer is seeking to have Rotary made up of 30% women.  At first glance, that seems a bit odd.  Does this mean that once clubs reach a level of 30% women members that they should not recruit any more?  Or does it mean that Rotary should reduce its standards so as to recruit more women?  Perhaps it means that if a district has more than 30% women, like our District 5495, it should develop a plan to cut back to 30% as President Jennifer wants?     The simple answer is “NO” to all of these! 
President Jennifer is simply encouraging all Rotarians to exactly what Paul Harris did.  Like most of us, Paul Harris only knew people in his circle of friends and associates.  He had to broaden his own horizon; go outside his established circle of friends and acquaintances to find others who would qualify to be great Rotarians.
Imagine DEI: Expanding Our Reach with all the possibilities of Diversity, Equality & Inclusion.  Contact PDG Barb Feder at to book a presentation at your club!