Yesterday I received an unsolicited email from a Rotarian who had “met” me via this blog. He shared a seven-page memo that he and a handful of other Rotary members have written, which basically asks the RI board to loosen the requirements for RI president — for women, that is. Their goal, he said, is to change Rotary and make it more attractive to women and younger members, and in order to do that, they want a woman in the top job. But according to the memo, it’s hard for women to get ahead in Rotary, and therefore, requirements should be loosened.
Don’t misunderstand me: The Rotary brass of the ’80s get no gold stars for being hide-bound in their refusal to allow women into the organization. They should have aligned themselves on the correct side of history and never let the matter go to the Supreme Court. But since women were (grudgingly) admitted in 1987, there’s been no looking back. Take me, for example: I was only the second woman to be president of my club; there have been two more in the six years since my presidential year. The year I served as club president, this District had had only two female District Governors; today, including the just-named nominee designate, six out of the current in-line and just-served 10 governors will be women.
No, women don’t need a loosening of requirements to get ahead in Rotary. All we need is a few more years. Or not even: Already, there are some stupendous senior Rotary leaders who are women, and in a very short time I am convinced we will have a female RI president. Who will be selected because the nominating committee believes she is the best candidate for the job, not because someone bent the rules for her.
Yes, women’s time has been long in coming. It took 75 years from Seneca Falls for women to earn the right to vote in a national election in this country. The ERA was killed in the ’70s thanks to scare tactics about unisex bathrooms and such silliness. Women still don’t have equal parity in pay with men. But …
Remember the ’90s “Take our Daughters to Work Day”? How far that situation has morphed! Today, less than two decades later, educators are concerned that young men are attending college at lower rates than women. And when I look at the wonderful scholarship candidates, GSE team members, Peace Fellows that Rotary and Rotary clubs sponsor, I realize that young men are not engaging in a number of areas that will keep them from moving forward in the years ahead.
No, women don’t need any special dispensation. All we need is an equal playing field. Which I have enjoyed in Rotary to a far greater degree than I ever did in my corporate life.