In Rotary, our diversity is our strength. This idea dates back to the earliest years of our organization, when the classification system was first proposed. The idea behind it was simple: that a club with members who had a wide variety of backgrounds and abilities would be capable of better service than one without.

In the years since, the idea of diversity in Rotary has come to be defined more broadly. We have discovered that a club that truly represents its community is far better able to serve that community effectively. Looking ahead, it is clear how essential diversity will remain in Rotary: not only to strong service today, but to a strong organization in the future.

One of the most pressing aspects of diversity to address in our membership is the age of our members. When you look around at almost any Rotary event, it becomes immediately obvious that the age range in the room does not promise a sustainable future for our organization. Our membership is near a record high, and we are bringing in new members all the time – yet only a small minority of those members are young enough to have decades of Rotary service ahead of them. To ensure a strong and capable Rotary leadership tomorrow, we need to bring in young and capable members today.

We also cannot discuss diversity in Rotary without addressing the issue of gender. It is difficult to imagine that just three decades ago, women could not join Rotary. Although we have come a long way since then, the legacy of that misguided policy is still with us. Far too many people continue to think of Rotary as an organization only for men, and that idea has had a detrimental effect on both our public image and our membership growth. Today, women make up just over 21 percent of Rotary's membership. While this is certainly a great improvement, we have a long way to go to meet what should be the goal of every club: a gender balance that matches the balance of our world, with as many women in Rotary as men.

Whatever brought each of us to Rotary, we stay because we find value in Rotary membership and believe that our service has value to the world. By building clubs that reflect that world in all its diversity, we will build even more enduring value in Rotary: Making a Difference.

Ian H.S. Riseley
President 2017-18

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