The image with this post is from 2017. It's written by a guy from Omaha, Nebraska, that I met in Chicago, Illinois, at a Rotary Zone Leadership Development Summit. I love that this popped up in my timeline today because all of the conversations that are about companies and organizations looking to build diversity, inclusion, and equity committees
I was the first black female club president for two clubs within my Rotary district. I have been the first for many things over my lifetime, and it got me thinking, I want to talk with other Rotary Firsts.
When I was first asked to join my local club, I never heard of Rotary. I asked non Rotary members, and I was told it's a club of old rich white guys. I thought, How could that be in this day and age, and why would they want me as a member? I decided to look up Rotary and found that it is a global organization with clubs in almost every part of the world, so by default, diverse nationalities. I fell in love with the Rotary motto" service above self." That spoke to me because I believe my purpose is to help others. To be part of an organization that focuses on serving their community both locally and globally, was a perfect match.
Long story longer, I attended a few clubs, and some were actually older white men. Still, a number of them were precisely the opposite but what made me say yes and kept me in Rotary was that the Rotary meetings and get-togethers despite any differences in race, religion, politics, or even professions, everyone in the room was united by Rotary's mission to provide service to others.
Over the years, I have been re-elected as President, District Public Relations Chair, Assitant governor in my territory, now back to President again and serving on district committees. In each role, I have never been introduced as a Rotary first publicly, but it has been brought up a few times and in awkward ways, but then I redirect to show how far Rotary has come.
Women were first admitted into Rotary 31 years ago. The clubs in the United States have has been embracing diversity in talent, race, sexuality, religion, gender identity for years. And now it is 2020, there are still Rotary first happening for some clubs. There are some clubs still struggling with overrepresented groups within their clubs.
Are you looking to change the status quo within your club leadership or membership?
Some clubs are reaching out to outside agencies, but forget that we have many Rotary First that still exists within local clubs, districts, and zones. We came to Rotary for a reason, We stay in Rotary for another. To attract more underrepresented groups to your table, first start by valuing what you have already and ask your Rotary firsts if they would like to share their story. Stop overlooking the people you have right in your organization now. To truly embrace and build diversity, inclusion, and equity so that it becomes ingrained in the organization's culture, it starts by actively listening to other thoughts and experiences.
I am not asking you to make a big celebration of the Rotary first, but I am asking you to remember they are there and have opinions. People go where they feel welcome but stay when they think their skill sets, ideas, and presence are valued.
I personally would like to meet more Rotary Firsts but truthfully I like meeting Rotarians and potential Rotarians.