Rotary Embraces Diversity and the Environment
The Rotary International Convention Wraps Up in Houston Today
Perhaps driven by a desire to appeal to younger people, Rotary International celebrated new commitments to diversity and the environment at its Annual Convention (the first in three years) held in Houston, Texas. Rotarians also welcomed the first woman to serve as the president of the global organization.
First Woman to Serve as Rotary International President
Jennifer Jones has served on the Rotary Board and has been involved in leadership for about three decades, including a year as vice president. Announced two years ago, she begins her term on July 1, 2022.
You can watch or listen to my 2019 interview with her here.
Supporting the Environment
During the peak panic of the early days of the pandemic, Rotary International formally added the environment as an approved “area of focus.” While tree planting and other projects were allowed and happened regularly, the addition of the environment to Rotary’s areas of focus greases the skids for more, including projects directly intended to address climate change.
Rotary’s six areas of focus before the addition of the environment were:
Peace and conflict prevention/resolution
Disease prevention and treatment
Water and sanitation
Maternal and child health
Basic education and literacy
Economic and community development
Rotary began formally exploring a greater commitment to the environment in 1990 when Paulo V.C. Costa as president created the Preserve Planet Earth subcommittee. Thirty years later, Rotary honored what he started by formally adding this new area of service.
Ian Risley, who served as Rotary’s president for 2017-18, led the effort to add the environment to the list of areas of focus.
As a result of these recent changes, the messages at Rotary’s International Convention this week have highlighted environmental projects in ways that past conventions I’ve attended have not.
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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Just weeks ago, Rotary updated its Diversity Equity and Inclusion Code of Conduct, strengthening it based on the work of a task force organized to explore these issues within the global Rotary community.
The language includes the following aspirational language.
Simply put, the DEI Code of Conduct asks you to:
Use respectful language
Foster a welcoming and inclusive environment
All Rotary leaders, from club presidents and district governors to directors and trustees, are expected to apply the DEI Code of Conduct uniformly to help members recognize the impact that their words and actions can have on other people.
Critically, the new code of conduct also provides a central reporting system, allowing Rotarians who feel that the Code of Conduct has been violated have recourse for seeking corrective action.
The new code was accompanied by a statement on diversity that includes the following language:
We value diversity and celebrate the contributions of people of all backgrounds, across age, ethnicity, race, color, disability, learning style, religion, faith, socioeconomic status, culture, marital status, languages spoken, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity as well as differences in ideas, thoughts, values, and beliefs.
The Rotary board also published a report highlighting eight key findings and associated actions intended to address them.
The new emphasis on diversity was on prominent display at the convention this week. For instance, Rotary CEO John Hewko shared the story of a club that tripled in size by adopting diversity-friendly tactics. In the same session, DEI speaker Alex Montoya affirmed that diversity is inherent in being a Rotarian, challenging us to embrace it fully.
Having met Jennifer, I’m thrilled to celebrate her upcoming tenure. I’m even more excited about adding the environment as an area of focus. I simply couldn’t be more pleased with the strengthened commitment to diversity on display this week.