Anne Ford 2016-12-28 04:47:40
ICELAND IS A NATION WITH A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE AND LIONS COMPARED TO OTHER NATIONS. THE ELECTION LAST SUMMER OF PAST INTERNATIONAL DIRECTOR GUDRUN BJORT YNGVADOTTIR OF ICELAND AS SECOND INTERNATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT SENDS A SIGNAL TO LIONS AND THE PUBLIC THAT LIONS WELCOME AND EMBRACE TALENTED, SERVICE-MINDED PEOPLE. Gudrun Bjort Yngvadottir is the second international vice president of Lions Clubs. She’s shown with her family including her husband, Past International Director Jon Bjarni Thorsteinsson, at the international convention in Japan last summer. It also tells people that women are welcomed and embraced as Lions. “My election means that fresh winds are blowing,” says Yngvadottir, who is in line to become international president upon election in 2018-19. “Our centennial celebrations are opening the eyes of our members. They are now more ready than ever to see new opportunities and welcome changes, including having a woman as their president.” Increasing the number of women who are Lions and Lions leaders not only means more hands for service but more effective service. “The evidence is that there is a positive link between more women in leadership and organizational performance,” says Yngvadottir. “With more women at all levels of leadership, I hope we will be more successful. Lions clubs will be stronger with better gender balance, with equal and active participation of both women and men in all areas of our programs, both in services and in decisionmaking. The addition of female members helped revive Cape Charles Lions Club in Virginia after membership dipped to 12 three years ago. “We needed our club to look more like the community. We needed to integrate by gender,” says President Karen Kolet, who became the first female member in 2014. The club now has eight women among its 24 members. Most joined after the club received a Spot Vision screener and began doing screenings at schools. “The word got out about what we were doing and that we needed help,” says Kolet. “The non-Lions who helped soon became Lions.” The club did not even have to intentionally target women. “It was a matter of who are my friends, who do I know, who can I invite,” says Kolet, who describes herself as a “recovering high school principal.” Women have been Lions since 1987. Today women make up 27.61 percent of Lions worldwide. Numbers in North America are comparable. In the United States, 30.06 percent of women are Lions. Canada comes in at 29.82 percent. ‘This is not simply about equal opportunity. It’s about effectiveness.’ The part of the world with the highest percent of female Lions is the region that encompasses South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico with 45.40 percent. The country with the highest number of female Lions is Anguilla with 56.56 percent. Lions leaders have stepped up efforts in recent years to bring in more women. In 2003, women’s membership chairs were established at the district and multiple district levels, gender-neutral language was adopted and numerous symposiums and workshops were held on recruiting women as Lions. A few years ago LCI founded a task force to start community projects of interest to women. Women who are already Lions say that they don’t experience any discrimination or intolerance from the men in their clubs— quite the opposite. “I don’t feel that I’m not appreciated for the skill sets that I bring to the table,” says Lori Short of the North Liberty Lions Club in Iowa. “I don’t ever feel that I can’t contribute what I have to contribute because I’m a woman. I just think it’s a matter of evolving. Lions used to be an all-male club, and that’s going to take a while to level out.” One way that leveling out is happening, she and other female Lions say, is through younger generations. Kristina Stewart, past president of the Upland Host Lions Club in California, notices that her club’s Leos has quite a bit of female participation. “Our kids, they’re starting out at a younger age. So when they get into Lions, they’ve already put in years of service. They know it doesn’t matter if they’re guys or girls; they’re working together as a team,” she says. “Getting our younger generation in— that’s where we’re going to get our girls.” Women are key to expanding Lions’ service. “There was an international president one time who said something like, ‘The problems of the world are too serious to limit solutions to half of our population.’ I think that really hits the nail on the head,” says Short. “If you limit membership to only half the population, then we’re only getting half the work done.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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