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.