Meet Renata Trottman, soon to be President Elect of Soroptimist International

Report from the Soroptimist International website

Renata Trottman , from Switzerland and a previous President of Soroptimist International of Europe (SIE) will be taking over the reins as President of Soroptimist International on 1 January 2026. On 1 July 2024 Renata will become President Elect using this 18-month period until appointed as SI President to become more familiar with the work and plans of Soroptimist International. Although well-known to many Soroptimists confirmation of Renata’s appointment provides a wonderful opportunity  for all of us to get know her a little better.  Our interview with Renata offers some insight into her motivation for becoming a Soroptimist and her long-standing passion to help women and girls.  

Why did you become a Soroptimist? 

I wanted to better connect with women beyond my community, specifically women outside my professional environment. I thought I was sitting in a glass house due to my studies and professional activities, which I wanted to break through. So, I was looking for an organisation of women that offered the broadest possible diversity of professions, an organisation that stood up for women’s rights, for the cause of women at a higher level and at the same time, carried out projects that support less privileged women.  

How did you find out about Soroptimist International? 

A friend of mine, a Soroptimist from another city, told me that a new club was being set up in my town, and I was immediately enthusiastic about this organisation. Unfortunately, I had to wait a few years to be invited again because my profession was already represented in the club. Luckily, I was still interested in joining, as I had not found a valuable alternative to what Soroptimist International offers.  

How long have you been a Soroptimist? 

Twenty-eight years. Like most Soroptimists, there were times when I could not devote much of my time to the organisation and get actively involved, but even during these times, I remained a committed Soroptimist. 

You have said in a previous speech that “in my view, women’s rights need to be defended now more than ever.” Why do you think that women’s rights are more in need of defence than ever? What can Soroptimists do to help overcome these challenges? 

Since Soroptimist International was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, women have gained more rights for themselves, at least in the Western world. We are not yet where we should be, and we must defend and protect the achievements we have made so far! In other parts of the world, we are seeing an apparent regression; women and girls are limited in their rights to education and professional practice. 

We have been on the right track for over one hundred years, so it is vital that we persevere and do not get discouraged. Our fields of activity are becoming increasingly numerous and diverse. I would never have imagined, for example, that nowadays we would need many projects in Europe on the theme of ‘Women in the War Zones’, where the aim is to protect women who are always particularly at risk of violence in armed conflicts.  

Unfortunately, we only have limited resources, which we must use sparingly and wisely to achieve our objectives. We have a clear mission which I wholeheartedly support:   

Soroptimists transform the lives and status of women and girls through education, empowerment, and enabling opportunities. 

What personal beliefs and experiences do you think will help you in your role as the next President? 

I was privileged to hold and experience various levels and functions within the European Federation. The last few years have also been very instructive for me, as I regained the perspective of a club member and member of a union after the Presidency of the European Federation. It reminded me again that, as club members, we work hands-on at the grassroots level to develop projects and secure financing. The activities of higher-level organisational bodies seem far away. And yet we must not forget that, as club members, we are an essential part of a larger international organisation that is allowed to represent us at important UN bodies thanks to our collective activities.  

Crucial to my understanding of our organisation is the awareness that SI is the sum of all our individual members, the sum of all our projects, campaigns and various activities and that we, Soroptimists, are not simply members of a women’s association, but part of an extensive, strong network, represented at UN bodies.   

I want to continue strengthening this awareness, our view of the bigger picture and our appreciation of each other. 

In SI, we have a formidable team of advocacy experts. They can draw on many years of experience, have a broad and deep knowledge of the areas in which we are active, prepare our Where We Stand statements and support our UN Reps in their work. These UN Reps, in turn, are well connected in their UN centres and can competently represent us. I highly appreciate their work for our organisation and look forward to working with them.  

How does your knowledge of the law and experience in management help you in your Soroptimist activities and how will it be beneficial in your role as the next SI President? 

My legal training has taught me to analyse issues, identify problems and develop solutions. These skills have assisted me in all areas of my career. Furthermore, I have spent my entire career in large international companies and have always worked in different global teams. I look forward to making use of this practical knowledge as SI President, and I am sure it will be helpful in my collaboration with the other Board members. Of course, I am grateful to have the support of the professional and experienced staff at SI headquarters. 

You have previously quoted human rights lawyer and feminist Amal Clooney:  

“The worst thing that we can do as women is not stand up for each other, and this is something we can practice every day, no matter where we are and what we do — women sticking up for other women, choosing to protect and celebrate each other instead of competing or criticising one another.” 

This vital statement helps us to understand how women should treat each other. Let us face it: we women are often more critical of other women than men. This is a great pity because it means we are weakening ourselves. We do not have to agree on everything; we can disagree on something, but we should not fight each other on a personal level. Let us treat each other well and put our energy and focus on fighting meaningful battles.  

Based on these thoughts, I chose the motto ‘We stand up for Women’ for my two-year term as President of the European Federation. 

You suggested that one way of standing up for women and to show our active support for each other is through mentoring. How can we progress this? 

Our Federations work differently, so I see diverse ways of mentoring. In the European Federation, some Unions have been actively conducting mentoring programmes for a long time, and we also stepped up these activities at the Federation level during my biennium. 

What are your ambitions for Soroptimist International going forward? 

I want Soroptimist International to have the visibility that our organisation deserves. Let us remember we are represented in 120 countries and have over 66,000 members! I am not even sure if all our members are aware of our role at the United Nations. We are active in seven UN Centres; our 19 UN Reps ensure that the voices of women and girls are heard. This is something we can be proud of. 

My ambition is to strengthen Soroptimist International both internally and externally. Internally, I want to make members more aware that they are part of a large, essential women’s organisation and that they can be proud of this. Externally, by communicating SI’s positions in international negotiations together with our UN Reps, I aim for Soroptimist International to be recognised for what it is: a strong voice for women.  

I would also like to promote the Soroptimist International Foundation, now an established charitable trust that will manage longer-term projects that Educate, Empower, and Enable. 

Furthermore, I see my role as strengthening the cohesion between the Federations. Our organisation consists of strong associations, each with its own qualities and separate working methods. What unites us is our vision and our mission. I want to reinforce the idea that we are all under the same umbrella. 

How can we encourage other women to become Soroptimists, to help develop the next generation of Soroptimists? 

In most cases, local clubs are responsible for membership. This means that local clubs publicise good projects, award scholarships or otherwise promote our organisation. The social environment is the deciding factor in encouraging members to stay or compelling them to leave. We can only persuade women to become Soroptimists if they find a friendly atmosphere in the club and want to work on something meaningful with other members. This is the basis for attracting and retaining members. 

To successfully recruit new Soroptimists, we must listen carefully to their needs, opinions and aims and be prepared to review and modernise our organisation. A year ago, as co-godmother, I had the privilege of founding a club with younger members, and I realised how things are done quite differently today than what I was used to. As an organisation, we must keep this in mind if we want to maintain our global status in the decades to come. It is about more than just the content; it is also about the structure and how collaboration can work. I welcome the initiative of the Soroptimist International Youth Forum and hope it will also bring valuable input for the future of our organisation.  

We would like to thank Renata for taking time to talk with us and look forward to welcoming her to the SI team on 1 July.