Title IX 40 for 40: Ginny Gilder
Ginny Gilder has been a co-owner of the Seattle
Storm since 2008, when she and three others purchased the WNBA team
from an Oklahoma businessman to keep it in Seattle. Gilder is no
stranger to making a stand for a cause she believes in. As a
freshman rower at Yale in 1976, Gilder joined the rest of her squad
for a “strip-in,” as they painted “Title
IX” on their chests and bared all in the director of
women’s sports office to protest their lack of equal
facilities. Gilder went on to earn four varsity letters at Yale and
was an All-Ivy Champion twice. She represented the U.S. on two
Olympic teams and in 1984 won a silver medal at the Los Angeles
Olympic Games. Gilder received an NCAA Silver Anniversary Award for
community service in 2004.
What impact has Title IX had on you/college athletics?
Gilder: I didn’t know of Title IX’s existence when I started college in the fall of 1975, nor was I an athlete. Six months later, I had plunged into the world of rowing and discovered Title IX, when the captain of my college crew invoked the legislation in a protest she organized to force our university to provide our women’s team with facilities equal to the men’s. The fact that a federal law existed to protect my rights provided me with a belief in my legitimacy as an athlete, that my passions, dreams, and goals were as valid and worthy of support as any other American’s. That belief became the foundation for a core aspect of my approach to life: to dream big and not be deterred by those who doubt or stand in my way. It would not be a stretch to say that my experiences as an athlete formed the framework of my entire approach to life, and inspired me to tackle many challenges that others occasionally think are outlandish in their audacity.
How did Title IX help to change the perception of women in athletics?
Gilder: Today, it is a given in most communities around our great country that girls deserve to participate in sports and to receive a comparable level of support and encouragement to boys. Title IX forced our culture to shift, to translate a theoretical support for equality into real dollars and cents, into facilities and uniforms, into excitement and applause for both the effort and accomplishment exhibited by girls and women as they pursue their passions. That doesn’t mean that men’s and women’s sports receive equal treatment, far from it, just look at the sports page of any newspaper across the country, but it is now generally accepted that the adjectives ‘feminine’ and ‘athletic’ are no longer oxymorons.
What effects will Title IX have for the younger generation?
Gilder: I have a daughter, now twenty, who started playing soccer as a five year old kindergartener, and today plays in a Division I college program. She never questioned her right to play sports or had to wonder why she couldn’t try something one of her older brothers tried. She didn’t learn about Title IX until its fortieth anniversary approached. Thanks to Title IX, she never had to contend with the idea that she was a second class citizen when it came to athletics, or anything else. Her one question to me in high school, however, as she contemplated her future, was why there was no professional women’s soccer league. Title IX paved the way for equal access to amateur sports. I foresee a time when American culture shifts further to embrace the concept of women athletes to the point that more opportunities for women exist to pursue their athletic passions as professionals. This development may not be directly attributable to Title IX, as the world of professional sports lies beyond its reach, but the passage of that federal law forced a change in behavior, which led to changes of both perception and heart. Future generations will hopefully participate in a society that embraces women’s participation in sports and business, the arts, and all human creative endeavors.
What can be done to strengthen Title IX?
Gilder: Continue to enforce it rigorously. Make sure its influence is felt in all aspects of education, not just in sports, so that in another forty years, people recognize its influence only started by transforming the playing field.