Along with its core values of fellowship, integrity, service and leadership, Rotary believes that exemplifying and embracing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) should be a part of everything we do. District 7620 in 2021 launched a DEI Committee to see that local clubs are welcome places for all to grow in service.
Kashonna Marrow, our present Columbia-Patuxent Rotary president, has been chair of the district panel and says it’s important that we’re clear about what DEI is and what we can do as a club, and as individuals collectively, to make sure it’s happening and is intentional. Even though it's been politicized, Kashonna said DEI isn't a political issue. “It’s been under attack in our businesses, and in our world, because it has been misunderstood and, unfortunately, misinterpreted,” she explained.
While people may think DEI is primarily about race, Kashonna said it’s based on consideration for your neighbor, especially for those neighbors who don't look like you, don't have the same experiences or the same background that you have. “Basically, what we're saying is, don't just treat people how you want to be treated, but treat them how they want to be treated as well,” she said.
There’s a descriptive “wheel of bias” showing in color 16 different bias factors we deal with daily. Kashonna said “if you say you don't have a bias, well, you're lying to yourself, because we all have them …(like) appearance, how someone looks. We call that a beauty bias. You determine that because some people are beautiful, they must be good. What DEI does is say - hey, I understand that I have this bias, and I’m willing to do what’s needed to make sure that I address it and begin to disrupt it.”
For Rotary, Kashonna said examining systems and processes to ask what could be done to make clubs more diverse, equitable and inclusive offers an opportunity to make DEI an intentional choice. Issues might include things such as dues. If we’re going to invite someone to join, they may not have the financial advantage that some of us have. How can we begin to make it equitable? If prospective members visit but don’t return, maybe we should reach out to see if they felt welcomed or excluded when they came, or to ask if there's anything we can do for them now?
“There are different things that we all can do to be intentional about our (DEI) engagement,” Kashonna said. She recommends that Rotary clubs form their own DEI committees and ask for volunteers “who want to talk about this further, begin to just see what we need to do, and who can bring it to the club as a whole, and begin to operate in that vein.”