Since 1987, February 2 has become a widely celebrated holiday around the world for celebrating the participation, accomplishments, and continuing fight for women’s equality in athletics. This year marked the 36th annual celebration of “National Girls and Women in Sports Day” as well as the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX. The Sewanee Athletic Department joined in the celebration, holding a large banquet in Cravens Hall for all of the female-identifying student athletes, coaches, and Sewanee Athletic staff who participate in and have contributed to the successful Sewanee Athletic Program.
John Shakelford, head of the athletic department who helped run the event, gave specific shoutouts to all of the women’s sports programs for record holding seasons this year, and in the past, as well as the impressive GPAs tallied by each team. Shakelford also praised the female-identifying staff members who help run the Athletic Department, and gave a special announcement to the new assistant director of athletics, Carrie Austin. Athletes from each team also came together for a video feature, sharing all of what athletics has done for them and what it means to be a female student-athlete at the University.
Vice-Chancellor, Nancy Berner, also attended the festivities and gave a powerful speech about the continuing fight for women’s equality on the field, court, pool, pitch, as well as in the classroom, around the school, and in everyday life. Berner said, “At Sewanee, in 1972, the year that Title IX was passed, there were nine women on college faculty. Twenty years after the passage of Title IX when I arrived here in 1992, the number had tripled. I was one of twenty six faculty members. Today there are a hundred and ten women on the university faculty- that’s just about fifty percent. That’s progress.”
In the NCAA today, women make up 44% of college athletes, and at Sewanee alone, 237 women participate in athletics out of the 530 total student athletes. These numbers have grown immensely since the Title IX bill was first passed in 1972, changing the history of college athletics forever. The law passed states, “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 education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The same year that the law passed, only 15 percent of women participated in college athletics, and only around 2 percent of college’s athletic budgets went towards female programs. Over the past decades, the fight for female participation at the collegiate level as well as for high-school and national programs have grown immensely, contributing to the mass movement of women participation in sports and in other spheres. While success has been garnered over the years, the fight for an equal playing field still exists and remains an issue that women around the world are pushing to change.
“The progress won’t stop because the women sitting with you at your tables tonight won’t let it.,” Berner said. “They have worked hard and they are still working hard to gain every inch of the progress I just shared. They are here for you, please reach out to them as mentors, as sounding boards and as friends. And please reach out to me, as the first, but not the last, woman to serve as vice-chancellor.”