Girls got it good, or at least better |

Girls got it good, or at least better

The thought first occurred to me while watching the movie “Mona Lisa Smile.”

It hit me again while pricing a pair of T-Ball pants for our 5-year-old daughter.

Our little girl has no idea how good she’s got it simply by being born into today’s society.

That sentiment struck me one more time earlier this week as we celebrated my own birthday, due mainly to the fact I was born in 1972 – the same year our country gave birth to a law that brought monumental change to the lives of American women.

No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid – of course more commonly known as Title IX.

I’ve heard the comments over the years about how Title IX has hurt men’s athletic programs as high schools and universities had to redirect their revenue to even the playing field of athletic opportunity between men and women.

But I won’t complain.

Just look at how far we’ve come:

In 1971, there were approximately 300,000 girls playing high school sports – nationwide. That meant that around 7.5 percent of American prep athletes were young women.

By 1996, that number had grown to 2.4 million, or 39 percent of our nation’s high school athletes.

In 1971, only 18 percent of women completed four or more years of college, compared to 26 percent of men.

By 1994, 27 percent of both men and women had earned a bachelor’s degree.

Do you realize that when Billie Jean King enrolled at Cal State Los Angeles, despite having already won Wimbledon, she did not receive an athletic scholarship?

What woman did?

It wasn’t until Title IX came along that colleges were forced to offer women free education in exchange for athletic ability – just as they had always done for male athletes.

The result is staggering. In 1997 – the 25th anniversary of Title IX – the U.S. Department of Education found that more than 100,000 women were participating in intercollegiate athletics, a four-fold increase since 1971.

Sure, there’s still a long way to go to actually fully comply with the letter of the Title IX law – that same 1997 study found that only one-third of college scholarships were awarded to women.

I have no doubt a true balance will come, though let’s hope it won’t take as long as history might predict. Remember, it was just 84 years ago that women were granted the right to vote – and just 41 years ago that they were deemed to deserve equal pay.

Yet judging from the quality of today’s women athletes – those who grew up with the opportunities Title IX afforded them – and the young admirers, it will be sooner rather than later.

One day our daughter will no doubt look up to the likes of an Annika Sorenstam or a Michelle Wie, women golfers who have pushed the envelope by teeing off with the best of PGA – and beating some of them.

The gap is narrowing.

I once interviewed a young man whose goal was to be the strongest man in the world, competing in the strongman contests you might have spotted in the wee hours of the morning on ESPN. Part of his training regimen was to strap on a harness and haul a 41-ton semi-tractor trailer down the street.

Still, he’s not the strongest person I know.

That honor goes to my wife.

It was the strength she showed as a single mother that first impressed me so, working four part-time jobs to pay the rent and keep a schedule flexible enough to be the amazing mother she is to our little girl.

But it was nearly two weeks ago that she truly showed me what “110 percent” actually is, giving birth to my first-born – a 9-pound, 9-ounce daughter.

I’ll never forget the amazing strength and determination I saw in my wife as she fought through pain I’ll never know the extent of that night.

And thanks to women who showed similar resolve in fighting for what should have been a common-sense evolution of our society, our girls won’t ever fully realize just how good they’ve got it.

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