Women in Rotary, in Ukraine, in life,
saluted at annual PPRC women's day event

Posted on: Monday, 14 March 2022

"Will you get your food and a mimosa and we'll get started…"

With that unusual opening for a breakfast meeting of Pearl Rotary, President Jonelle Anderson welcomed a full room of Rotarians and guests (see posed group image) to the fourth annual International Women's Day celebration (3/8/22).

Joining on Zoom were Rotarians visiting from other states and parts of Oregon. Adam Steckel in Colombia zoomed with two members of the Neiva Noches Platenas RC who attended with the Pearl international service director. Rotarians came in purple--see image of Diane Brandsma and Phil Rothrock.

Opening song led by Jerry Baysinger was chosen for the day (see picture): "I Am Woman," Helen Reddy. While the women in the Ecotrust conference room proclaimed that theme, men's lyrics were altered: "She is Woman." "If I have to, I can do anything; I am strong, I am invincible; I am woman."

After introductions, the weekly raffle drawing, and an announcement on District 5100's successful fundraising for Ukrainian relief ($85,000, reported President-Elect Tiffany Salzman), "Brags" commenced. Past President Tara Mussulman encouraged expressions "in the spirit of bringing equity to the room and (women's) voices." She noted a new sports bar in Portland, the Sports Bra, which will exclusively televise female athletes.

Shout-outs came to wives, sisters and daughters. The U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, was saluted. Past, current and future PPRC female presidents were lauded (Jonelle will be followed by Tiffany in 2022-23 and Diane in 2023-24). One image in this story has PPRC member Joy Lawrence thanking President Jonelle for her friendship and guidance.

The most poignant moment came when Ukrainian-American Yelena Girich spoke on Zoom. First thanking Rotarians for their support of her homeland (and for her personally), the longtime club member told of a female volunteer and friend who is volunteering on the streets of Kyiv by helping women, baking food and assisting those in need. "She's ready to fight; I'm so proud of my friend."

Focus then shifted to women's role in Rotary International and speaker Johrita Solari (pictured, presumably from Southern California). The past RI director (2019-21) and international RI vice-president (2020-21), spoke on Zoom on the theme of the day: "Break the Bias."

Her Rotary journey began in 1993 (about six years after a Supreme Court decision that opened Rotary's ranks to women). She came with "a gender chip on my shoulders." Rotarians, she had thought, were "all men standing around talking to each other."

But what Solari found was different and engaging: "They were professionals who connected their heads to their hearts."

Rotary has evolved over the past 35 years and the role of women has been highly influential, she believes: "Women immediately embraced leadership opportunities and stepped forward and joined in. Today (in Rotary), women are in every leadership level."

She cited statistics: Ten years ago, RI had 1,2 million members, 34,200 clubs and just 17% female membership. In 2021, the 1.1 million across the world had 24% women. Of the 36,000+ clubs, 85% have female members.

Women are also in leadership on the International level. 129 of the 524 recent district governors were female. Zones, the foundation, trustees, and board of directors now have women in leadership, Solari cited. And on July 1, Rotary will have its first female president in its 119 years, Canadian Jennifer Jones.

"More women members means Rotarians working side by side to accomplish extraordinary things," Solari observed. "Women are here and making Rotary strong."

Yes, things have changed in Rotary, Solari concluded. A verse from Helen Reddy might have echoed in the room:

"You can bend but never break me/'Cause it only serves to make me/More determined to achieve my final goal/And I come back even stronger/Not a novice any longer/'Cause I've deepened the conviction in my soul."

Tuesday Morning at 7:30am
Breakfast Included 
Ecotrust Building
721 NW 9th Ave #200
Portland, OR 97209
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