Today is a day to celebrate Title IX, the landmark legislation passed 40 years ago that gives women equal access to all fields of education. So many people recognize Title IX for what it has done for women in sports. Tonight, ESPN airs a special called Venus Vs, about Venus Williams’ fight to get equal pay for women tennis pros at Wimbledon. She is following in the giant footsteps of Billie Jean King, who fought for women’s equal pay in tennis at years of turmoil through the Women’s Tennis Association. She has become a beacon for all women in sports and in life to seek equal treatment in access and pay. It is fitting that this 40th Year Anniversary of Title IX falls in the middle of the Wimbledon tournament 2013.
I hasten to add though, that women’s access to equal education has had an even more profound impact on women in numerous industries. Since the enactment of Title IX, women have risen from a significant minority of students graduating with college degrees to claiming now 57%. More impressive is women’s completion of graduate degrees, now at 60% of all granted. Women earn more than 50% of all medical and law degrees, 35% of business degrees and 18% of engineering degrees. None of this would have happened without Title IX.
As the marketing slogan goes, we’ve “Come a Long Way Baby”, but we are not there yet. We are fighting to get more girls into STEM education and careers to understand the impact they can have on innovation in any number of fields. We are losing young girls interest in science, technology, engineering and math for a host of reasons, some of it peer pressure and intimidation. We need leaders here who will guide these girls through education and careers. They may not recognize the importance of Title IX . My generation, who started our careers without Title IX, know the fight and we need to educate today’s generation to guard those rights for all daughters and future generations.
I recently participated in the BA Ungrounded Lab in the Sky to develop solutions to the pressing need for more STEM workers. Among the teams formed to compete for the best solutions were teams trying to develop STEM education and careers for girls. The winning solution, called AdvisHer, is a web-based advisory network to connect STEM career women in key roles with girls in school and early careers to provide role models and advise them on the choices they have before them. It’s a totally practical proposal and the team is working to bring it to fruition. There are others out there, too, Sally Rides Science a foundation for girls in 5-8 grades to introduce them to the magical world of science. Girls who Code, is a non-profit organization launched by activist Reshma Sanjani that brings corporations and girls together in summer training programs, and Black Girls Code, founded by Kimberly Bryant, another organization focused on training minority girls for important careers in computer science and technology. We also have the Girl Scouts, Girls Inc., and The Boys & Girls Club focused on girls In STEM courses.
There are so many green shoots in our midst to see that women and girls get equal access to education, to jobs, to pay and to careers. Yet, we have not yet achieved parity. Before I return my focus to the grass courts of Wimbledon, I want to celebrate Title IX. We need to recommit to its’ purpose — equality for girls and women in all endeavors. We are not turning back. The 21st Century is ours to claim.