Title IX changed the game

On The Way
By Olivia Fowler

In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed into law Title IX, the law that compels our society to make available to girls and women those opportunities enjoyed by boys and men.

The law states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

That was 41 years. Nobody could have imagined the changes that were coming. The bill was introduced by two Congresswomen, Patsy Mink of Hawaii and Edith Green of Oregon. Mink was the first woman of color to be elected to congress.

She entered politics because doors to other careers were slammed in her face. She was turned down by 20 medical schools because she was both female and a person of color, a common practice at that time. She shifted her focus to law. After earning her law degree, she discovered that no law firm would give her a job. That’s when she entered the political arena, fought for changes and won.

In 1972 Mink and Green, who worked to improve the lot of women through education and social reform, introduced Title IX and somehow managed to get it passed.

Up until that time, many colleges and universities had no official women’s teams in any sport. Even tennis great Billie Jean King couldn’t get a tennis scholarship. There was no such animal.

Athletic scholarships for women were virtually nonexistent.

Even parents seldom attended girls’ sports in high school, but usually turned out in force when their sons played.

The self confidence and leadership skills developed in boys by team sports were hard to come by for girls.

All of that is different now.

A few years back, I saw a prime example of how far girls have come in this arena in Pickens County when the Pickens High girls’ volleyball team was recognized at a school board meeting for their state championship achievements.

There were no shrinking violets there. No more were we treated to submissive, nervous girls with downcast eyes, trying not to draw attention to them.

We saw confident self-assured young women who received their accolades gracefully and lit up the room with their enthusiasm and sense of achievement.

These are the women who will excel in today’s world. They will be able to compete on any field, be it business, education, technology, science or any given profession.

They will serve on boards and hopefully run and be elected to public office.

Today, more women are graduating from college with degrees than ever before — more women than men actually. We hope that soon we will see more of a balance on the boards of universities and more women serving in the state legislature.

There are many well-qualified and competent women in our state who have much to offer. It would be wonderful if their skills and talents could come into play in the state legislature, as company CEOs and on the boards of colleges. Now, more than ever, the importance of a balanced approach to important issues is needed. Female as well as male voices must be heard.

Change is coming. We better get ready.