My Turn: Examining Gender Equity
April 16, 2012
"Once upon a time--and that was the late 1960s--athletic departments used to be sparsely staffed, snow white and all-male, except for a few secretaries. To those inside the system, this seemed perfectly normal because this was how it had always been. How else could it be?
"Then in 1972 some rabble-rousing women made a silly fuss and all of a sudden the United States government passed something called Title IX. It seemed very weird to the collegiate sports establishment when Title IX talked about equality in treatment between the long-established men's programs and these newfangled women's teams. Old timers were pretty shaken up about it.
"`You mean we have got to take good money that we were going to spend on football and baseball and spend it on women's track and basketball?' they asked each other incredulously. `We ain't got enough money to do that. Seems like a waste.'
"At most universities, it took a while for Title IX to take hold. Old-school administrators sought ways to delay the effects of this drastic new concept, but by the early 1980s most places were fielding a handful of women's varsity teams, usually funded on a shoestring.
"Ever so gradually, those compact administrative staffs enlarged. Once only football, men's basketball and baseball merited attention from the athletic director, sports information officer or business manager, but those days were numbered. Opportunities continued to grow. At Vanderbilt in 1993, a turn-away crowd of 15,000 jammed Memorial Gymnasium to watch a women's basketball game. And everyone lived happily ever after."
That parable contains more truth than fiction. And to most of us in the 21st century, the notion of such inequality seems as bizarre as the women's suffrage debate or separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites. Oh, you can still find a few old-schoolers who scoff at women's sports and lament that the money to fund their programs should be funneled to bloated men's budgets. But those dinosaurs are getting few and far between.
Sometimes I think Commodore fans would be surprised to realize the important and influential role women play inside our department on a daily basis. We know about the women's teams and high-profile coaches such as Melanie Balcomb.
But how many of you know Candice Lee, Patricia Marett, Lori Alexander, Vickie Woosley or Elizabeth Wright, to name just a few of our difference-makers? We won't attempt to offer full job descriptions or bios, but let's quickly identify their crucial roles to our success.
Candice Lee and Patricia Marett are quite possibly the most influential individuals inside Vanderbilt Athletics short of Vice Chancellor David Williams. Lee is our senior women's administrator and director of compliance, while Marett--a longtime Vanderbilt executive--is chief of staff and our CFO. Her expertise in handling our complicated $50 million budget is vital.
Lori Alexander is a longtime `Dore, a member of our Athletic Management Team with oversight of many men's and women's programs and all of the championship events we host. Vicki Woosley is our new sports psychologist, and judging by her bulging appointments calendar, her impact is priceless. Elizabeth Wright heads our highly successful academic center, working daily with 325 student-athletes.
We've come a long way from the days when young girls lacked sports role models and opportunities, and the secretary's desk was a woman's only shot at working in sports. However, there are still miles to go before we sleep.
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