Four accomplished women shared their experiences in front of a full room to celebrate Title IX, federal legislation that they said changed their lives.
Title IX, which turned 40 in June, is part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and is responsible for equal opportunities in athletics and education for women.
The panelists told moving stories and made the audience, composed mostly of women, laugh throughout the event.
ASU’s head women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne said Title IX allowed her to get a scholarship and attend college.
Thorne said the legislature has deeply impacted women’s opportunities, but there’s still work to be done.
“Going forward, I hope people realize that in the last 40 years, Title IX has faced many challenges,” she said.
In 2005, the Office of Civil Rights added a clarification to Title IX that stated schools could show compliance if they administered surveys to determine women’s interest in athletics.
After much criticism, the Department of Education rescinded the clarification in 2010.
Thorne also spoke about juggling her career and her personal life.
“Being a parent and a coach is exhausting, but worth it,” she said.
Retired professional IndyCar driver Lyn St. James said it was difficult to overcome gender discrimination in her field.
St. James, who won the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of The Year award in 1992, said Title IX has paved the way for women who are interested in racing.
“To be able to see all these changes now after 40 years is fabulous,” she said.
Title IX is just the start in the search for equality, St. James said.
“We have to continue to fight,” she said. “We have to stay vigilant about making sure it’s enforced.”
Sister Lynn Winsor, the athletic director of Xavier College Preparatory School, said girls’ participation in sports has increased since the passage of Title IX.
Winsor has worked in education for more than 42 years.
Equality in sports has not yet happened, Winsor said after the event.
“There have been many disgruntled male coaches that have blamed Title IX for funding cuts,” she said. “There is still a road to travel.”
Plaza Companies President and CEO Sharon Harper said Title IX gave women never-before-seen opportunities.
“Those 37 words brought a level of respect and opportunity for everyone,” she said.
ASU is a great place for women to be successful, Harper said.
“(ASU) is leading our region in many different aspects,” she said. “It has something for everyone.”
Business graduate student and former softball player Hillary Bach attended the event.
Bach, who was named Pac-12 Conference Woman of the Year in August, said she is confident ASU’s women’s athletics will continue to grow.
Bach said the panelists and their passion for sports inspired her.
“Female athletes will continue to do great things in the future,” she said. “Hearing them makes me want to work even harder.”
The Alumni Association, the Sun Devil Club and the ASU Foundation Women and Philanthropy organized the event.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @dpalomabp