Still a ways to go for females

BY EVELYN LAU | APRIL 14, 2009 7:30 AM

For all the strides Title IX has made for female athletics, the negative aspect is hardly ever addressed.

On Monday evening, five prominent women shared their Iowa sports experiences during a press forum held at the Karro Athletics Hall of Fame. Among them was former Iowa women’s Athletics Director Christine Grant.

“Division I, particularly, is totally caught up with keeping up with the Joneses — that is our biggest problem,” she said.

The forum began with each of the speakers — Grant, Iowa City Press-Citizen sports reporter Susan Harman, Iowa volleyball coach Sharon Dingman, Iowa women’s basketball associate coach Jan Jensen, and health and sports studies visiting Assistant Professor Christina Johnson — sharing their personal experiences with sports.

Grant said that, growing up in Scotland, she never dealt with sex inequality. She was allowed to participate in any sport wanted. However, she said, upon coming to the United States, she was shocked by the way female athletics were viewed.

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“When I was an athlete in Scotland, we had equal opportunities for boys and girls at my high school, and so it wasn’t a big deal,” she said. “But when I came here and I saw the disparities at the high school and also at the university level, it was shocking to me because we were treating our young female athletes in an entirely different manner, as third-class citizens, and that just was not right.”

Harman described a similar situation growing up in a pre-Title IX era of the 1950s and ’60s. She was involved with golf because her father introduced it to her. However, she doesn’t doubt for a moment her life would have changed if she had grown up with Title IX.

“I probably wouldn’t have played golf, I probably would have played everything else,” she said. “I think it would have changed my life immeasurably. I probably wouldn’t have gone to the same school. I went to a small liberal-arts college where there weren’t sports.”

Dingman and Jensen shared their stories of being female college athletes and the difficulties they faced even after the days of Title IX. Jensen stressed that in order for women’s athletics to go forward, it would be up to the younger generation to strive for equality and “fight to make things better.”

Johnson wrapped up by focusing more on the psychological aspect of female participants in sports. For many young women, she said, participation allows growth and confidence.

In the second part of the forum, Grant gave a presentation discussing how in Division-I sports, the sex disparity is increasing; in Division II and III, it is decreasing. Title IX isn’t effectively being implemented by many institutions, she said, but she believes that change will come.

“I see as a solution, nationally the idea is to cut expenditures, but it has to be nationwide because one school cannot cut back and remain competitive,” Grant said. “We’ve all got to cut back, and so I am just praying that we’re going to see some legislation come forward for significant cutbacks of our expenditures. If all of us do it, we won’t lose anything, and the students will still have a wonderful experience.”

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