By Ronald Hanaki
On April 24, ESU held its Symposium on Women in Sports: Celebration of Women’s Athletics. The events took place from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM.
There were three morning presentations and a panel discussion that were held in the Cecilia S. Cohen Recital Hall in the Fine and Performing Arts Center. That was followed by an invitation-only luncheon in Lower Dansbury and an afternoon presentation in room 113 of Stroud Hall.
The 9:00 AM presentation entitled “Title IX…37 Words That Changed the World (of Sport)” was presented by Sharon Taylor. Taylor worked at Lock Haven University for forty and a half years and served as the Director of Athletics at Lock Haven for twenty four years.
It was Taylor who came up with the idea of a championship for field hockey.
Taylor was part of the U.S. Field Hockey Association and sat on the board of the United States Olympic Committee. Now retired, she continues her commitment to Title IX. She is an advocate for civil rights and fairness in society and has spent her entire career acting on these principles.
Taylor discussed the creation of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in 1972. AIAW was instrumental in the creation and passage of Title IX.
Often referred to as the “37 words that changed the world,” Title IX says, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
As Taylor recounted the history of Title IX to her audience, she said, “If there is one thing that you take away from today, know that Title IX is a civil rights law.”
Thanks to Title IX, women began to have more opportunities to participate in collegiate sports.
The 10:00 AM presentation was entitled “The Courage of Leadership…and Making a Difference.” Dr. Donna Lopiano was the speaker.
Lopiano served as the Director of Women’s Athletics at the University of Texas for eighteen years.
Lopiano is recognized as the foremost expert on gender equality in sports and is nationally and internationally recognized as an athletics administrator.
Lopiano began by telling the audience that her dream was to pitch for the New York Yankees. As a kid, Lopiano was a good pitcher, but her Little League baseball career was cut short by a rule that said, “No girls allowed.”
Lopiano told the audience, “No child should be told that they cannot pursue their dreams.”
Lopiano asked, “Do you want your daughter to be as successful as your son? Do you want your daughter to be as healthy as your son?”
Lopiano added, “Studies show that your daughter is more likely to be successful in life after sports. We won the media war because we were armed with research facts.”
Lopiano said that the battle to pass Title IX was won because the media was on our side.
Lopiano continued, “Leadership is about finding your personal voice. It’s just a matter of saying yes, you can [lead].”
Lopiano was also the speaker for the 11:00 AM presentation entitled “Debunking the Myths of Women in Sport.”
At 12:15 PM, there was a panel consisting of Taylor, Lopiano, Jan Hutchinson, and Mary Gardner. Hutchinson led the field hockey teams at Bloomsburg University to national championships. Mary Gardner was a long-time coach at Bloomsburg and served as its Director of Athletics for twenty three years.
The panel discussed a variety of issues including the importance of networking in developing relationships in the industry and digital media in making collegiate athletics more available for wider consumption.
They also expressed the strong desire to see more young moms get involved with children in sports. The panel said that women role models for young girls are important.
Dr. Carey Snyder, ESU’s Associate Athletic Director, asked a variety of questions of the panelists. Snyder asked, “What is the most important leadership skill for our students to develop to become effective leaders?”
Taylor replied, “What Donna [Lopiano] said this morning. Competence.”
Lopiano said, “Leadership is nine times out of ten about solving a problem.”
Hutchinson added, “Don’t be afraid of showing your passion.”
Snyder asked, “Do you think there is a time where Title IX is not needed for equality in athletics?”
Lopiano said, “That would be nice, but we would be naive if we left it for someone else to enforce laws and rules. You always have to stand up for your rights. Only in that environment will we realize the promise of Title IX.”
However, Lopiano cautioned, “Laws drive discrimination underground. It makes it difficult to see it.”
Snyder asked, “What are the most critical challenges facing intercollegiate athletics today and going forward in the not too distant future?”
Lopiano said, “The most critical is athletic health safety and well-being. We are a profession with no code of ethics for coaches. We should be protecting the health and not exploiting athletes … it’s an athlete welfare issue.”
Taylor added, “We tried to purchase insurance for students. If the committee in that sport is educational, then it should be treated the same way as education.”
At the end of the panel presentation, Hutchinson was asked, “Who had the most influence on you as a woman’s softball coach?” Hutchinson replied, “Donna Lopiano.”
The afternoon presentation entitled “Modern Sexism and Its Implications for Women Leaders” was presented by Dr. Nancy Jo Greenawalt, ESU’s Academic Coordinator of Athletics.
The purpose of Greenawalt’s study was to examine the relationship of modern sexism to a female athletic preference for a coach.
Greenawalt said “Sexism is alive and well, but it’s more subtle. It’s just going unnoticed, or we view it as normative.”
Greenawalt continued, “It’s so covert and subtle that they go unnoticed or so prevalent that we think that it’s the norm. There is a perception that we don’t know that we have it.”
Greenawalt’s study surveyed one hundred and fifty five participants in NCAA Division I sports. Additionally, she selected ten people to interview as a random sample.
Greenawalt found that 81 percent of the female athletes surveyed preferred a male coach. Moreover, past experience with coaches was a significant predictor of a female athlete’s preference for a coach.
Finally, 40 percent of female athletes were being coached by women.
Greenawalt found that female coaches were viewed more negatively, and traditional sex biases were unlikely to disappear until there were more women coaches.
Further, some people responded more negatively to criticism from female coaches. Thus, men are favored, and unequal treatment is normative.
Toward the end of Greenawalt’s presentation, it was asked, “Are women being hired / promoted at the same rate and to positions similar to men? And what can be done to change the organizational culture to ensure that women are valued and treated fairly once hired?”
A very engaging and lively discussion followed these difficult and tough questions.
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