DEI is a difference maker

Kumar leads discussion in front of a room full of other members
Mohan Kumar, right, leads discussion sessions in his club designed to let everyone share their ideas.

By Mohan Kumar, charter president, Rotary Club of Bangalore Prime, India

I was given the opportunity to establish a plan aimed at increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our club as the chair of our DEI taskforce.

We have found that when we approach millennials or women to join Rotary, they look at the level of diversity in our club. We are a four-year-old Rotary club with 34 members, seven who are women. For the current Rotary year, we also have women serving as president, secretary, and treasurer. We have just one member below the age of 40 and six members in the range of 40-49. Through this lens, we knew that we could do better and be more relevant in the communities we serve.

Increasing our diversity, equity, and inclusion is imperative to our success and our future in Rotary. Our goal is cultural change. To do this, we need a shared language, candid conversation, and an understanding of how to be relevant to our communities.

Diversity goes beyond age, gender, race, and ethnicity. The diversity of thoughts and of people fosters a strong sense of belonging. We had a joint meeting with six clubs that I facilitated involving a conversation about DEI. Most of the participants realized the importance of leveraging these initiatives and aligning them to our club goals.

We need to make inclusivity more than an initiative, though, and make it a mindset. Rotary Fellowships and Rotary Action Groups are great pockets of conversation which thrive on inclusivity. We are educating our members about these groups and asking that each member be a part of one Rotary Fellowship and one Rotary Action Group.

“When a flower doesn’t bloom – you fix the environment, not the flower”

Our club members are now encouraged to bring their own projects to the table for discussion. We are working on having hybrid weekly meetings through appropriate IT platforms. This will ensure better attendance and engagement.

To augment our membership, we are considering having potluck dinners. The diversity of the dishes will celebrate different heritages and broaden our cultural understanding. Members are encouraged to bring guests. Many have taken an interest in organizing these dinners ensuring a sense of inclusivity.

To fuel agility, we will have huddles that circumvent boring meetings. These huddles will focus on allowing each person to have the same amount of time to speak as others. The journey of a DEI program is about having candid conversations on an on-going basis. There will be successes and setbacks, but moving forward is critical. We can’t prepare ourselves and Rotary for the future if we are not elevating and activating all people at their fullest capacities.

DEI is the bedrock of any progressive organization.

Learn more about Rotary’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

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