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Katie McLaren and Wei Zhang have become the presidents of their Paeroa service organisations. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Female presidents dominate in Paeroa

There’s a change in the air at two Hauraki service organisations, and with it sees two females wearing the chains.
Katie McLaren, 36, has become one of the youngest ever presidents of Rotary Paeroa, while Wei Zhang, 48, has become the very first female president of the Paeroa Lions.
The milestone marks a significant moment in which the charitable organisations expand on their diversity.
“I think the membership is changing and we need to change with it,” Katie told The Profile.
“Our community is age diverse and ethnically diverse, so the club needs to change with the times. I may ruffle a few feathers in my presidency, but I think it needs to happen,” she said, “while also honouring the traditions in the way Rotary has been run.”
Katie became Rotary Paeroa’s newest president on July 4, taking the reins from Margarete Ford. She said while the club was evenly split with about a 50/50 male-female membership, she was keen to work with schools to encourage young leaders to come forward.
She was also “excited” to hear Wei had become Paeroa Lions’ first ever female president in its 63 years.
Wei took over the position from Peter McNair at the end of June. At first, she wasn’t sure if she could do it, she said, but received encouragement from other members.
“Previously, they didn’t even want female members. I think I joined the club at the right time.”
She said the membership was still skewed – out of 41 members, only four of them were women – but Wei said all four were “great Lions”.
“And I think that also gives confidence to the male Lions – showing that the girls can do stuff.”
The two presidents are keen to work together going forward, with both hoping to focus on mental health awareness within the district.
Katie said the 2023/24 Rotary International Presidential Theme was “‘Create Hope in the World’. “Two of the main focuses are promoting peace and a focus on mental health. In my year as president I will really be looking at how we can support mental health in our community,” she said.
Meanwhile Wei, who joined Paeroa Lions in 2017, hoped to be the first in a long line of female presidents for the organisation.
“It’s becoming a national trend,” she said. “Females are taking more roles in community work. Especially nowadays, there are a lot of uncertainties in society, so we do need to send some positive signals to the youth and encourage them to get more involved with the community.
“It’s going to be a good, long-term thing,” she said.
DETAILS: For more information on the clubs, find Rotary Paeroa and Paeroa Lions Club on Facebook.