Three ways to make your club more inclusive

By Katey Halliday
Rotary International Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force
Rotaract Club of Adelaide City, SA
Rotary Club of Adelaide Light, SA

Rotary’s recently adopted diversity, equity and inclusion policy sends a strong message about embracing inclusivity. Rotary has clubs all over the world and reaches a broad range of people with our service projects. So, we are already diverse in a lot of ways, but a second ingredient, inclusion, is the key to unlocking and maintaining the full benefits of that diversity. How inclusive is your club?

Verna Myers, founder of the Verna Myers Company and Vice President of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, has explained the difference between the two concepts as: “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance”.

In the context of Rotary membership, this means it is not enough to invite people from diverse backgrounds to our meetings and events. We need to include them in club planning and decision making, and value their contributions.

Make your club accessible

  • Do you meet in a convenient location for everyone? If not, consider meeting in more than one venue or provide remote access options such as Zoom.
  • Can people find information easily if they are unable to attend?
  • Does the time of your meeting work for the demographic you are trying to attract? You could provide options, such as some morning and some evening meetings. Not every meeting needs to include a meal.
  • Are there any unnecessary costs that block some from attending, such as the cost of a meal? A limited menu can also create unintentional barriers for those with dietary restrictions. Also consider providing the choice of not eating at all.
  • Can you bill for fees on a monthly or quarterly basis instead of annually for those who would manage better this way? You could set up a small premium to cover the added cost.

Give all members something meaningful to do
Try not to make assumptions about what members would like to do and just hand over a task that has not been done by other members. For example, not every young person wants or knows how to manage the club’s social media accounts or website.

Finding something meaningful requires club leaders to understand why each member is in Rotary and determine what activities would fulfill their passion and purpose for joining. It is sometimes easier to do a task yourself then delegate, but handing tasks over to someone new is a great way to include them.

Provide diversity and inclusion training
Every club can benefit from an honest discussion about these topics. I have received feedback from many members and have heard in consulting with districts that some people hesitate to join (or stay) because of inappropriate comments or behaviour they have experienced. Bring in a speaker or conduct a training session on any of the following topics:

  • Using inclusive language: Learn about the effects our words have on creating a culture of normalised behaviour. Gendered language, for instance, is a barrier toward achieving gender equality. To achieve the goal of having women comprise 30 per cent of membership and leadership by June 2023, we need to take positive action in this arena.
  • Detecting and avoiding unconscious bias and discrimination: Sometimes people can unintentionally be treated unfairly because of a personal characteristic.
  • Understanding and avoiding sexual harassment: The ‘Me Too’ movement has raised awareness of sexual harassment. Bring in an expert to raise your club’s awareness of the issue and what they can do to prevent it.
  • Calling out inappropriate behaviour as a bystander: David Morrison, retired Lieutenant General of the Australian Army and current chair of Diversity Council Australia, notes: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.
  • Participate: In International Women’s Day, Harmony Day, your local Pride celebrations and other days that celebrate diversity.

There are many strategies your club can employ. But for any to work, you must accept that change is vital to Rotary’s continued success. We can admire Rotary International for approving the diversity, equity, and inclusion policy; now, it’s up to members to work it down to the club level. Learn what your club can do about diversity.