by Beverly Ryder
Board President, National Women’s Hall of Fame
On June 23, 1972, then-President Nixon signed the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which contained a short provision, referred to simply as “Title IX,” which prohibited sex discrimination in education. This provision, a mere 37 words in length, profoundly changed the face of education, athletics, and life as we know it for women and girls throughout our county.
Before Title IX, women were regularly denied admission to many colleges and universities despite stellar academic qualifications. For example, when I applied to college in 1968, I was not able to apply to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth or Amherst because they were all male and didn’t admit women.
Girls were generally discouraged, if not outright prohibited, from pursuing serious athletic endeavors. Many in my generation remember playing women’s basketball on a half court and being restricted to three dribbles before having to pass.
Despite its importance, few young people today know what Title IX is, much less its history, the controversy resulting from its implementation, and the enormous impact it has had on their lives. In order to mark this momentous occasion, raise awareness about the importance of Title IX, and discuss the work yet to be done to fully empower women and girls, the National Women’s Hall of Fame hosted an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX, on June 26 in the nation’s capital. At the event we honored three individuals without whom this legislation would not have happened: Former Senator Birch Bayh, the Senate sponsor of Title IX; the late Congresswoman Patsy T. Mink, the defender and champion of Title IX in the House of Representatives; and Dr. Bernice Sandler, the unsung heroine of Title IX who worked behind the scenes to insure this provision became law.
In addition to honoring those that made this law a reality, we brought together a group of notable leaders from the fields of education, athletics, business, law and policy to discuss Title IX’s impact, where policies have fallen short, and the work that remains to create true equality globally for women and girls. Olympians Donna de Varona, Angela Hucles, and Michelle Kwan; Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon; and Joann Flaminio, the first woman president of the Boston Athletic Association discussed the doors that were opened for women and girls in athletics as a result of Title IX. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Barbara Mikulski and Senator Michael Bennet discussed the importance of the law and policies they are currently working on to level the playing field and further empower women and girls. Former U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, discussed the importance of gender equity internationally and how the U.S. has the responsibility to serve as a role model for women and girls around the globe. Businesswoman Beth Brooke reflected on the need for a greater number of women to hold executive positions in public companies and serve on corporate boards. Activists Eleanor Smeal, Neena Chaudhry and Linda Hallman advocated for the next generation’s involvement in moving things forward.
This event was both insightful and inspiring. We were all so eloquently reminded that while so much has been accomplished over the last forty years, there still remains much to be done to achieve equal opportunity for all women.
Beverly Ryder is an accomplished executive with 30 years of corporate experience in banking, energy and education. She is currently president of the board of directors of the National Women’s Hall of Fame. The National Women’s Hall of Fame is the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to recognizing and sharing the stories of America’s great women.
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