October-November 2018 | Articles

Equality in motion for Rotary

Equality in motion for Rotary

Rotary has been open to women for 35 years, yet for many, Rotary is seen traditionally as a male dominated organisation. The Colchester Gazette recently published this article focusing on how District Governor, Lesley Sulley, is breaking the male-only perception.

Male, pale, frail and stale – the words Lesley Sulley uses when she explains what she thinks is the perception of a typical Rotary member.

Describing herself as lively and vibrant, Lesley, 65, is clearly at pains to distance herself from the unflattering and rather dated description.

First and foremost, she’s female. And while in 2018 that shouldn’t make a difference, Lesley, this year’s District Governor for her area, says it has.

“Women have been accepted into Rotary for 35 years. I am challenged regularly and, interestingly, my husband is challenged on it too.

“It is male Rotarians and sometimes their wives. They have said things to me like: ‘We were happy, our husbands were going out on a week night, now women are spoiling it’.”

But Lesley adds: “It is only the tiniest minority and our biggest defenders are male.

“People in general are frightened of change. It doesn’t mean once they get over the hiccup that they don’t approve.

“Most clubs will say women joining is the best thing that has happened.”

Lesley, from Braiswick on the outskirts of Colchester, joined one of the town’s four Rotary clubs, Colchester Centurion, ten years ago.

She is the second woman to hold a role for an area which spans Essex, east Hertfordshire and east London.

In total, there are 63 clubs in the district, seven of which don’t have any women members.

Most clubs will say women joining is the best thing that has happened.”

Across Great Britain and Ireland, women make up just 17% of the membership.

Evidently, the organisation clearly has some catching up to do after being around for 113 years.

Lesley’s club was founded by Christine Beedle 18 years ago – the first in Colchester to be open to men and women.

The other three clubs in her area have followed suit.

So, what have the new members brought to Rotary? “Diversity,” says Lesley. “It has just moved with the times.”

She adds: “What they say to me is that I am a breath of fresh air.”

Lesley’s successor will be a woman, Pauline Dean, also from the Colchester Centurion Rotary.

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