Kathi Smith shares her experience as one of the first women in Ontario Rotary.

The Kitchener-Waterloo 5-Club Membership Committee was excited to participate in the "Women in Rotary" event on February 8th, hosted by the Kitchener Rotary Club as part of their 100th Anniversary celebrations.  The meeting featured a presentation by Kathi Smith who was one of two of the first women inducted to Rotary in Ontario in 1989.  Pat Talman (Deceased 2020) also joined the Kitchener Club at this time. Kathi explained how challenging it was to be accepted in her club as there were many obstacles to be surmounted by members who didn't think there was a place for women in Rotary.  She also acknowledged that many others were accepting, and saw that the contribution of women in Rotary would enhance the opportunities for growth and service.  Kathi has held many positions of leadership in her club and in the District, and has paved the way for women to become vital members of their clubs.  
Valarie Wafer, Rotary International Chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee also spoke about the need to broaden Rotary's vision of its membership.  In a recent worldwide survey done by RI there was a strong message that members wanted more diversity and an expanded view of the profile of a typical member, especially as it relates to leadership in Rotary.  Rather than characterizing  the ideal candidate for membership, we must offer anyone who is interested in joining the opportunity to fit in.   District 7080 has formed a Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee to address this important aspect for our future.  
The goal of Rotary International is to have 50% of its membership held by women.  Currently 20% of the total membership is comprised of women.  We are celebrating that incoming RI President Jennifer Jones is a Canadian and will inspire more women to become active Rotarians.  
The Kitchener-Waterloo 5-Club Membership Committee started in November 2020 with a common objective to increase awareness of the benefits of membership in Rotary through public education and social media.  For more information on our local 5 clubs, please visit www.peopleofactionkw.ca  .    
Submitted by Paul Rostrup
Rotary Club of  Kitchener