It’s Time for a Woman President in 2014-15!

by John Borst

Sometime around now, a committee is about to meet within Rotary to decide whom to nominate as the 2014-15 President.

Last year’s announcement of the 2013-14 President, Ron D. Burton (Pres.-elect 2012-13) was made on 8 August 2011, so one must assume that a similar announcement will be made this August for 2014-15.

I would like to propose that it is an appropriate moment for the nominating committee to put forward a woman as the President for 2014-15.

There are some important reasons why this is an “appropriate moment” to choose a women as our 110th president.

It was in 1989 that the Council on Legislation approved a resolution that henceforth Rotary International would be open to women members worldwide. Although the first woman was actually admitted to a Rotary Club in California in 1987, 2014-15 will effectively mark the 25th anniversary of that momentous change within Rotary.

L-R: Elizabeth S. Demaray, Anne L. Matthews, Ann-Britt Åsebol

So how has Rotary changed over those 25 years?  According to a 1 May 2012 news release there are currently nearly 200,000 women Rotarians, 91 of whom, in 2011-12, are District Governors.  Interestingly, this means women currently make up 16% of our membership and 16.9% of the District Governors.

At the R.I. Board table, however, women have not fared so well. This year of the 19 members only one is a woman, Elizabeth S. Demaray Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA.

Fortunately she will continue to serve in 2012-13. She will also be joined by Ann-Britt Åsebol, of the Rotary Club of Falun-Kopparvågen, Sweden and Anne L. Matthews, of the Rotary Club of Columbia East, South Carolina, USA both of whom are serving two year terms for 2012-14. As a result the board will now come close to having a board at least nearly proportional to its membership; 15.7% verses the 5.2%, it has had for the past year.

While at this years Bangkok conference, I took the opportunity to ask a small number of women if they thought it was time to have a woman as president. To a person each answered yes. I then would ask if they were getting impatient with the progress towards that goal. Again each answered yes.

The only event I experienced where much was made of the appointment of two women joining the board in 2013-14 was the Rotary Leadership Institute’s annual breakfast. Somehow that seemed appropriate.

In 2011 the nominating committee who put forward Ron Burton’s name was made up of 17 men and no woman, so I suspect 2012’s committee may have a similar composition. Let’s hope they have the courage and forethought to take this opportunity to both commemorate the 1989 CoL decision and recognize the importance women now play in the life and future of Rotary International, even if it means jumping the queue.

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25 Responses to It’s Time for a Woman President in 2014-15!

  1. Betty L Screpnek, District 5370 DG 2013-14 says:

    Well done John. We cannot say as an organization that we support women as equal partners in Rotary without providing a structure that is inclusive of women in selection and submission of women in leadership positions.
    By following our own 4-Way test, we role model a corporate structure that will be an example of how we do good business in Rotary.

  2. noronwe says:

    The following is an edited exchange off-line with a current Director
    (Director) There are 34 zones in the world. Each year 17 representatives meet to nominate the President. It alternates between odd and even zones. Last year the names were from the odd zones, where this year they will have even zones represented. The names of the committee are not published until after it meets. It will be slecting the 2014-15 President, in which there is only one possible female candidate.
    (John Borst) .That would make it very difficult to promote a woman because you wouldn’t be able to target individuals so it would have to be very public.

    Who in you opinion is the one person qualified. Evan believes both Catherine Noyer-Riveau who sereved July 2008 to June 2010 and Elizabeth S. Demaray currently serving July 2011- June 2013 are eligible.

    I did a check on Canada & the USA last night and as I suspected this is very much a first world issue. 43 of the 91 current woman DGs are from USA/CA. That is 47.5% of all woman DGs. It is also 38.4% of the 112 Districts, well above the 16% Internationally.

    I was surprised to learn that the total number of woman is only 197,000. There must be a large swath of the world where RI clubs are not making much effort to recruit women.

    In the past five months I have taken the three parts of the RLI program. (in Chrisholm MN, Red Deer AB, & Verona NY) Woman dominated the numbers in each part in each location.

    I suspect RIBI, NZ and Australia posses the majority of the remaining DG, and after that the northern EU countries.

    I do not think Rotary can afford to ignore this difference any longer yet I suspect it would be very difficult to get it done by 2014-15. The earliest I can see it happening is 2015-16 for P-E and 2016-17 for Pres. Is that reasonable?

    A campaign now, however, would put the pressure on to respond to that kind of timeline. With no pressure doubt it would even happen then.

    (Director) I believe strongly that the best candidate should be RI President. It is not a gender or age issue.

    Let’s think the process through.

    1995-1996. was the first year that women were eligible to serve as Governor. I think out of the 530 DGs, we had 9 women.

    In the years from 1995-1996 to now, there have been approximately 9,030 District Governors. Though I don’t know the exact number, let’s say that there have been 900 wome; this is your pool of possible Directors who then would become Past RI Directors.

    Each year nine (9) directors come off the board. Historically it takes 10 years from serving as Director before you get nominated as President. So, there will be potentially 80 men who feel that they are qualified to be president and 1 woman.

    Catherine has not served on any RI Committee since leaving the board. Betsy will not be eligible until 2015-2016.Catherine’s husband had a stroke and I am not sure she wants to move on. Betsy is battling cancer and had to miss the last Board meeting.

    Both women, health issues aside, are first class!!

    Looking forward, in the 2013-2014 we will have four (4) female Board members. Though they are all qualified, Ann-Brit from Sweden and Celia Giay from Brazil might be the best candidates, though once again, they truly need to put in some time to be considered.

    So, where do we go from here?

    Though everyone seems to think that the hierarchy is holding women down, it is actually the grass roots that is doing it. We need more female DGs, especially from outside of North America. They are selected by the local Rotarians in their perspective districts.

    Once we have a larger pool of female PDGs, we will have a larger pool of possible female directors, then a larger pool of possible female president candidates.

    ….So, let’s say I decide to put my name in for president in five years. In the next 5 years we will have 45 Directors coming off of the Board. 40 will be men, 5 will be women….plus we have all of the men who come off in the years prior. Is it really fair to promote a woman, just because she is a woman, over a man who is equally or more qualified? Is it fair to promote me, because I have left more recently over an older person who is equally or more qualified? We have only had one man with black skin to serve as president. We currently have 2 past RI Directors with black skin. Should we consider them as well?

    John, we are on really tough ground here. I truly hope that the Rotary world keeps promoting “people” of the highest quality, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual preference, etc… With a more diverse pool of possible candidates, our senior leadership will adequately represent the members they serve.

    Thanks for your interest and obvious love of Rotary!!

    (John Borst) Thank you for such a thoughtful and complete reply. I appreciate the time it required.

    At one level of course I believe the best candidate should be RI President. But I also know that many other factors, such as geo-politics, and the social considerations enter the picture.

    I have no doubt that anyone who makes it to the Board of Directors is capable of being an RI President.

    I do not think the hierarchy is to blame, but from your description the process is not compatible with a quick change process. That is why I ended my editorial with the idea that the queue had to be jumped.

    Yes I also agree with you that “we are on really tough ground here”. However you raise the question of fairness. I do not think that that is the best or first question.

    The first question is what is best for the good of Rotary. That places the issue into the wider context of the situation in which Rotary finds itself as an entity within the changing conditions of the World’s society.

    And that in turn puts the issues of both youth and gender at a higher level of importance particularly within the North American context. As you know that context because of the disproportionate importance it holds for the good of The Rotary Foundation cannot be ignored. Similarly, as women in North America come closer to making up 50% of North American Rotarians it adds a new dimension to the urgency to nominate a woman as President rather than to wait through the process you outlined. In that regard I too was most impressed with Ann-Brit’s background and saw her as prime candidate among the woman.

  3. Dr.( Mrs) Leonora R Mohan, Assistant Governor, Dist.3020, Andhra Pradesh. INDIA says:

    Dear friends in Rotarians.
    What a wonderful thought indeed!!! Yes it’s time now to recognize WOMEN IN ROTARY and give them their due recognition, After all thats what Rotary is all about.

    God Bless Rotary,

  4. Karl Amstadt says:

    As soon as any group starts choosing it’s leaders based on gender, race or nationality instead of qualifications, the quality of that leadership begins to decline. I would love to see a woman RI President as long as she is the most qualified person for that position. If she is not, she does not belong in the position.

  5. Manuel J.F. Duarte de Sousa says:

    Hi Dear Fellow Rotarians from all over the World,

    it is indeed a great idea to have to finally have a Fellow Rotarian Woman as a President and that I would ideed, as a Rotarian, also fully support.

    As a Rotarian from one of the Souwestern Region of Africa, of Angola, District 9350 (Angola, Namibia and the Western Cape Province of South Africa), I would be most glad to soundly indicate/suggest a Candidate from this Area, in the person of our most hounorable Fellow June Webber, one of the greatest Rotarians I had the occasion to come across with (independently of being a Woman, is a Great Rotarian – She was the first District Governor of us here in Angola, after we became re-districted and after we had finished our long lasting war and when we were just a one Rotary Club of Luanda – we are now 3 Rotary Clubs in Angola, being 2 in Luanda and 1 in Lobito).

    Kind Rotarian Regards to all

    manuel de sousa – Rotary Club of Luanda
    AG District 9350
    Email: starwalker@netcabo.co.ao

  6. John G. Kramb says:

    Rotary should select its leadership based on qualifications, experience, vision, and other time-tested attributes. The gender should be of no consequence, either in favor of or against selection as our President.

  7. Adrian Brewer says:

    I read this with deep interesrt and the replies. Here in RIBI we appear to be ahead of the ‘game’ with Nan Macreadie already in place to follow President John Minhinnick. Enough said…

  8. Gil Teixeira says:

    John,

    I just finish to read your statement, and I confess until now I hadn´t realized all the issue.

    You are right, RI needs a woman in charge.

    Sorry my ignorance.

    Gil Teixeira
    Rotary Club of Lisbon/Portugal (Hotel Tivoli)
    International Tax Lax Expert
    gil.teixeira.adv@gmail.com

  9. kevin kitto says:

    Time is passing us by and we need a women to take charge as they get things DONE.Ms Matthews would be a great leader and I think that the other two ladies would be great.What are we waiting for.
    Kevin Kitto
    Winter Haven Rotary Club
    k.kitto@verizon.net

  10. Don Johnson says:

    Does not the president have to be nominated by his/her club? I thought that the nominating committee selects from the nominees presented to it. Guess I’ll have to reread the RI MofP and bylaws. Can’t be selected if not nominated.

  11. Jerry Casburn says:

    How could one ever subscribe to a view that now is not the time for a woman as our President. We should have been working to this long ago, which means promoting it within the eligible groups. If we want women in Rotary ,and boy do we need them, we have to act as if we fully respect their capability. there should be no glass ceiling.

  12. Israel Duncan says:

    Top of the Day to you all my Rotary loved ones! So that you know where this opinion is coming from please permit me to say a little about myself: Israel Duncan 30 years of age and a brand new Rotarian attached to the Rotary Cub 4397 of Kissimmee Florida, District 6980. I was born and breed in Trinidad and Tobago where i was an active Rotaractor in the Rotaract Club of Port Of Spain West, District 7030. On my 30th birthday on November 5th, 2011 i knew i wanted to continue serving by taking the next step, joining Rotary. In March of this year i made my first international travel to Florida to pursue studies in my dream profession as an Airline Transport Commercial Pilot! Being halfway through my training and it becoming naturally more intense as it progresses, gives me little time for other activities but I have read parts of other Rotarian’s opinions on this subject and this is my contribution: I am not even vaguely familiar with all the regulations regarding how things are done and decisions are made in this esteemed Organization but i am willing to learn! I am also not familiar with the State of the Hierarchy of RI that would cause the stir of this discussion as to the NEED for a female RI President! I have never had problems with taking and carrying out instructions from my Female Supervisors in my current position so i am certainly also not familiar with me being a male chauvinist. What i do know and believe in is that there are systems and protocols for a reason. I am also a firm believer that you don’t interfere with something that works. The raising of a topic like the one i am commenting on raises a series of questions like: Has a problem been identified? Is it that the system to select the top brass of RI flawed? How long has it not been working? If it hasn’t been working why does it seem that the general Rotary population is nonchalant about the RI President selection, especially as leadership of an organization such as this one is suppose to be of utmost importance? What exactly has sparked this need for a female President, Is there something wrong with the direction in which our Rotary men are taking us? To put that last Question in perspective I will say that at present my entire country is Governed by a Female Prime Minister and i have no problem with that as long as “Performance Beats Ole Talk”. I will accept a President regardless of Gender, Age, Ethnicity, Color, language or any other demographics that society tries to throw in the pot as long as they have met the requirements set by the Powers that be, inclusive of the RI Motto. The moment we begin to judge a man/woman by the above mentioned social standards rather than the beauty of that person from within and what they bring with them for the betterment of RI and Humanity as a whole, we have stepped off the beaten path as Rotarians and as human beings! I think that all the 5 lines of our motto should be used to continue to guide us as to how we should operate in this matter as well as all aspects of our lives!

    Of The Things We Think, Say or Do
    Is It The Truth?
    Is It Fair To All Concerned?
    Will It Build Good Will And Better Friendship?
    Will It Be Beneficial To All Concerned?

  13. noronwe says:

    Israel, when I wrote the above, I did so rather naively, simply thinking that the 25th anniversary of women being admitted to Rotary was an appropriate time to celebrate that milestone by electing a woman as president. No criticism of Rotary was implied in the post.

    After posting the item at Linkedin, primarily as a way to generate traffic to the site, I have literally caused a firestorm of comments and a cohort of Rotarians has convinced me that indeed there is much to criticize about the process used to select the president, one which perhaps unintentionally clearly works against a woman being chosen any time soon.

    Rather than review those reasons I have posted here the URL for the Linkedin discussion
    see
    http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=119621378&gid=858557&commentID=99185800&trk=view_disc&ut=2qhCrLMOoip5s1

    We are now at 1515 comments a record for any discussion in The Rotary International Group.

  14. David Waters says:

    I am appalled at this suggestion. The choice should be made based on the merits of the candidates irrespective of gender. To suggest otherwise is sexist and anathema.

    • Israel Duncan says:

      I had responded to this topic previously and i would reiterate by saying: David i totally agree that to select the candidates based on anything else would cheapen the symbol of the RI President, Our Pledge and what we stand for as an Organization!

  15. noronwe says:

    David why have you reacted so emtionally to the suggestion? Can we not have it both ways? A fully qualified woman who beats out all the men on the short list. Seems to me you are missing the forest for the trees.

    And where sir is your outrage over the fact that Rotary has not had the ability after 25 years to elevate sufficient women to the BoD that more than one even quaifies to be considered. Me thinks the possibility exists that there has been a male bias at play over those 25 years.

    And where sir is your outrage over the fact that after 25 years there are still over 6000 all male clubs in Rotary. And were sir is your outrage that there are zones within Rotary that only have 4% of their members as women? Is it just possble that the clubs in those zones are indeed practicing discrimination and Rotary has made little effort to address it?

    Yes indeed there is nothing more appalling than a male who cries fowl over equality of opportunity when males have been in the position of 100% of the time.

    • Israel Duncan says:

      Noronwe, If what circumstantial evidence You have brought to the fore is indeed true then measures should be put in place to ensure all members regardless of gender, dogma, ethnicity etc are afforded equal opportunity and privileges! You do seem to have a point if my interpretation of your statements are correct!

  16. noronwe says:

    The data is correct. It was glenned from reports provided by Rotary International and analyzed by a member of the Linkedin RI discussion group. if you review the posts starting at the most recent and going back you will find the person who will send you a copy for your own review.

  17. RI already has a nominee for 2014/15, official as of 1 October, and further at Lisbon. http://www.rotaryfirst100.org/presidents/2014huang/index.htm. RGHF preserves and promotes the history of Women and Rotary at http://www.jeanharris.org

  18. Manuel JFD de Sousa says:

    Dear Rotarian Fellows all over the World…

    2014/15 has almost passed away, so, my support to the idea of a Rotarian Woman becoming a RI President will be transfered to 2015/16 and on until we finally manage to achieve that so highly important Rotarian objective. This is not only a Human goal, a most fair and just wish that can very well be turned true by all the Rotarians arround the World…
    All the best to all Rotarians
    Manuel de Sousa – RC Luanda (Angola) – D9350

  19. Gil Teixeira says:

    Dear John,
    I am with you since 2012 in this issue and all rotarians who defend a female as chairwoman of RI. Please let me know the evolution of this matter.
    Kind regards.
    Gil Teixeira
    Rotary Club of Lisbon – District 1960 – Portugal

  20. John Borst says:

    Gil, although we have not yet had a woman as president of Rotary, I do believe our paper and the LinkedIn discussion of 2012 has had a decided effect upon the Rotary “male” establishment. Anne Mathews is the first woman to be a Vice-President. This past year we also had not one but two women on the selection committee, which is a first time for any woman. On the other hand The Foundation Board of Trustees after having Stephanie A. Urchick serve the 2012-2014 term is once again all “male”.

    Progress, as predicted is far too slow and then as now I see little chance before 2020 of ever having a woman as Rotary President.

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