Editor’s Note: the following is an excerpt from President-elect Ian H. S. Riseley’s speech to the 2017-18 District Governors January 16, 2017

“When we look at the specific challenges in our clubs, which we must help them to address, two of them stand out to me. One is the gender balance in our membership. The other is the average age of Rotarians.



President-elect Ian H. S. Riseley

It has been 28 years since our Council on Legislation voted to admit women to membership in Rotary. Yet the percentage of women serving in our clubs is only just over 20 percent up from about 13 percent 10 years ago. At that rate, it will take us another three decades to get to where we should be: gender parity, with as many women members in Rotary clubs as men.


Three decades is far too long to wait to achieve a Rotary that reflects the world in which we live. We need to make it a priority now.

Of this class of 539 incoming district governors, we have 103 women. And you are fabulous examples of the women we need in Rotary — women as leaders who will help Rotary connect with, and represent, and better serve, all of the members of all our communities. We need more like you.

The second critical challenge in our member demographics is our age. Paul Harris was 36 years of age when he called that first Rotary meeting together in Chicago in 1905.

Today, only 5 percent of our reported membership is under the age of 40. Just 5 percent! The great majority of members are over 60. And that is based on age reporting that covers only half our membership base. It doesn’t even include the people who don’t want to tell us how old they are.

Think about that for just a moment. Now consider what Rotary stands to look like 10 or 20 years from now, if we don’t get very serious, very soon, about bringing in younger members.

It is imperative that we find new and better ways to consistently attract and engage younger members so that we are constantly creating new generations of members and leaders. This is essential for our organization to flourish.”