Women are active participants in Rotary, serving their communities in increasing numbers and serving in leadership positions in Rotary. The 1989 Council on Legislation vote to admit women into Rotary clubs worldwide remains a watershed moment in the history of Rotary.
“My fellow delegates, I would like to remind you that the world of 1989 is very different to the world of 1905. I sincerely believe that Rotary has to adapt itself to a changing world,” said Frank J. Devlyn, who would go on to become RI president in 2000-01.
The vote followed the decades-long efforts of men and women from all over the Rotary world to allow the admission of women into Rotary clubs, and several close votes at previous Council meetings.
The response to the decision was overwhelming: By June 1990, the number of female Rotarians had skyrocketed to over 20,000. The number of women members worldwide reached 195,000 in July 2010 (about 16% of Rotarians) and surpassed 277,000 in July 2020 (about 23% ).
A top priority for Rotary is growing and diversifying our membership to make sure we reflect the communities we serve. We know that our capacity to increase our impact and expand our reach is larger when more people unite with us, which is why we value diversity, equity and inclusion. Rotary celebrates and welcomes the contributions of people of all backgrounds, regardless of their age, ethnicity, race, color, abilities, religion, socioeconomic status, culture, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Our timeline highlights historic milestones and senior leadership firsts that have helped build greater diversity in Rotary. These leaders and all our female members are making positive change in communities around the world.