For those of you who may be unaware of Title IX, it is an educational amendment passed by President Nixon on June 23, 1972 stating in part that “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.”
Title IX was ahead of its time. This single piece of legislation laid the foundation for the development of future women athletes, leaders and entrepreneurs. Three direct benefactors and one father shared their story with me, as the Chicago Sky celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Title IX at the Thompson Center Plaza earlier this summer.
MARGARET STENDER, founder, Chicago Sky
Ms. Stender is beyond humble. She credits her current success as a businesswoman, mother, daughter and leader to being a participant in sports. “So much of my experience has come from the ability to play and compete. We are just now seeing the benefits of what Title IX has given not just women but the world,” she says.
Ms. Stender seized the opportunity to form Chicago Sky, not because she always wanted to or knew anything about running a pro-sports team, but because she knew the community needed role models to help people learn life lessons. And Ms. Stender believes in life lessons. The lifelong lesson she learned as a result of sports was to take responsibility for yourself. “The confidence that comes from [personal responsibility] gives you the ability to lead and make change,” she says. “If don’t you start with yourself, you cannot lead others. I never asked people to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”
MARIA WYNNE, CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana
Ms. Wynne, an award recipient that evening, says she was humbled to be a part of this year’s awardees. She is so grateful for Title IX because it made available to all girls and women, opportunities in sports and corporations that were traditionally foreclosed to them. While Ms. Wynne is ever grateful, she notes that Title IX has fallen short of materializing its goal. She makes this observation because Title IX is often associated with women and sports, and less attention has been given to its significant role in how women have access to opportunities in corporate and educational institutions. “There is more on the table.” explains Ms. Wynne. “Title IX was created to address multiple disciplines that were receiving federal grants and federal funding: sciences, engineering, math. These are all areas where we can really leverage Title IX to take our girls and women to the next level.”
SHEILA SIMON, Illinois Lieutenant Governor
Sheila Simon is Lt. Governor of the great state of Illinois (yes, I am slightly biased). She ran track with the men’s team in college because there was no team for women; a year later, the women had their own team. Ms. Simon was instrumental in the implementation of a woman’s track team at her college because of Title IX. “I just had a kid’s understanding of the law,” she recalls. “I told my coach that it means I can participate equally. I want to do it. I want to run.” Even though she was the slowest member on the team, she finished every practice and completed every competition. And Ms. Simon has been running ever since! She says Title IX allowed her to test and push herself to the limit, which carries over, into every aspect of her life – even when she wanted to give up. “I found out that I was strong and I like being strong.” At the event, Ms. Simon declared June 20, 2012 “Title IX Day” in Illinois.
ADAM FOX, president/CEO, Chicago Sky
Mr. Fox has two daughters and says the value of Title IX, on a personal level, is that his daughters “have no idea there is nothing they can’t do.” Title IX has its value in not only sport but socially, as well. Young girls are able to realize their true potential at an early age and be supported in reaching their goals without the internal and external barriers their mothers and grandmothers had. And for any young girl or women who were told they can’t do it, Mr. Fox says, “Get a second opinion. And come see us if you want a second opinion on what you can and cannot do.”
Mr. Fox made several noteworthy points, related to how sports are connected to professional success. However, I found the following point to be the most significant: “… the one thing that girls (and everyone for that matter) learn from sports is that it is okay to compete. It’s okay to win. And if you don’t that’s okay, too; it’s the climb that matters. Men have had that experience for such a long time that competition has been their advantage.”
For more information on how Chicago Sky gives back the community or to get involved contact: Erika, President of Sky Cares Foundation. Sky Cares raises money to do programming for 7- to 13-year-old girls in the Chicago area that include fitness and self-esteem, and players are used as mentors as well. To get connected, go to www.chicagosky.net and get involved!