Rotary & International Women’s Day – Let’s Start a New Goal “50/50 by 2050”

JborstBy John Borst, PP, Rotary Club of Dryden

Today is International Woman’s Day and Rotary is sponsoring an event at the World Bank this afternoon. Yesterday at their blog Rotary also posted a piece by Clara Montanez, a member of the Rotary Club of Washington, D.C., USA titled “5 concerns facing professional women today”. Yet is that really good enough in 2016 when the ratio of women to men is still at 20 to 80?

A review of Rotary’s membership by country reveals that the average split by gender for all countries is 20.48% female and 79.32% male. After nearly 30 years, one can see Rotary still has a long way to go to reach gender parity among its membership.

The USA and Canada are at 28.62 and 31.29 per cent respectively.  There are countries much higher than that such as Mongolia 52.82%, Indonesia 45.07%, Nicaragua 47.62%, Venezuela 41.02%, Egypt 40.18%, Russian Federation 34.43%, Peru 33.44% and Costa Rica 34.16% to name just a few of those near parity.

As you may notice most of the countries at or nearing parity are relatively new to Rotary and developing their economies..

Our real source of concern then should be turned to those countries below and well below parity. Who they are may come as a bit of a surprise.

Here are two maps showing countries where Rotary women make up less than 20% of the Rotary membership.


In Europe, Belgium is the lowest major country at 8.92% but Austria at 9.64% and Germany at 9.89% are not far behind. The startling aspect for Europe is how low the entire continent is after so many years.


Japan is the slowest country over-all at 5.59% regardless of size; India is third lowest at 9.21.

I recognize that Rotary must be sensitive to local cultural norms yet in this age of very sophisticated advertising campaigns, where the art of psychology and sociology underlies all consumer campaigns the question goes begging why hasn’t Rotary brought such knowledge to bare in Europe and Japan?

Why too, hasn’t Rotary made it very clear to the Governors of those Districts that the status quo of the 20th Century is no longer acceptable in the 21st ?

Benign neglect seems to have been the modus operandi for far too long. Is it not time for Rotary International to mount a public relations campaign in Europe, Japan and another low scoring nations tailored to the uniqueness of their cultures in order to seek out more women for Rotary?

Or how about establishing a nice simple slogan such as “50/50 by 2050”! Now that would be a worthy goal to set on International Women’s Day.

About John Borst

John Borst’s career in education spans the years 1960 to 1996. During those 36 years, he spent an equal amount of time working int he English language, Public and Catholic school boards. Borst taught in both elementary and high school environments. Positions of responsibilities held included department head in Geography, curriculum coordinator of Social and Environmental Studies, Principal, Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Student Services. Borst retired in 1996 as Director of Education for the legacy Dryden Board of Education. During this time, Borst has lived in the Ontario communities of Brampton, Toronto, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Aurora and Dryden. Currently, Borst splits his time between Dryden and Toronto. Since retirement, Borst has served as a Supervisory Officer with a remote School Authority; been a freelance writer of articles on education in particular for Education Today, the magazine of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA); founded and edited from 2006 - 2010 the Education blog Tomorrow’s Trust: A Review of Catholic Education; and from 2003-2010 was a trustee of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
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