Title IX: WNBA owner among women athletes running businesses

Ginny Gilder didn’t know exactly what Title IX meant until she was a freshman at Yale, competed for the rowing team and attended a protest against the law.

SEATTLE (AP) — Ginny Gilder didn’t know exactly what Title IX meant until she was a freshman at Yale, competed for the rowing team and attended one of the most famous protests surrounding the law.

The co-owner of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm was at the heart of the 1976 Yale Strip-In to protest the school’s unequal treatment of male and female rowers.

“What happened to me personally, I always say … the experience radicalized me,” Gilder said. “Because I grew up in New York City, Upper East Side. I was a private school girl from Park Avenue. I mean, you want to talk about privilege, that would be me. So it was the first time I experienced discrimination.”

As Title IX celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Gilder is one of countless women who have benefited from the passage and implementation of the law and have used these opportunities to become leaders in their careers.

Participating in this demonstration caused Gilder to become intoxicated. It helped her become an Olympic silver medalist in rowing at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. It helped her build a successful business career as an investor and philanthropist. It also helped Gilder embrace her sexuality in the late 1990s.

She’s now part of the ownership group that bought the Storm in 2008 and kept the franchise stable in its hometown.

“I think a lot of what I’ve learned in the business world is that you have to stand up for what you want and not what you want in a personal way, but in terms of your vision for the world and for the change you want to make,” Gilder said. “And that was certainly an experience I learned from becoming an athlete.

“But it was really an experience I learned from that protest,” Gilder added. “That you have to push if you’re not happy, you’re not happy with the way things are. You need to get out there and roll up your sleeves.”

Gail Koziara Boudreaux has also used her competitive spirit to find success off the court.

The Dartmouth career scoring and rebounding leader has served as President and CEO of Anthem, Inc. since 2017.

Boudreaux, a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year and four-time Ivy League shot put champion, said historically there haven’t been many female CEOs — and of those who have, some have been former athletes.

“If you look at a lot of us, we come from sporting backgrounds on different levels,” Boudreaux said. “And I think it contributes to our competitiveness and our fearlessness to take on challenges and not be afraid to step in, you know, step in and play the game.”

With Title IX providing more opportunities for women as a result of growing participation at all levels – from youth sports to college, Boudreaux believes the number of female CEOs will inevitably increase and level the playing field for companies. It’s one of the reasons Boudreaux applied for a coaching position at her alma mater alongside investing her company.

“I think it’s important for us to give back to the things that helped us move it forward and also to be an important, socially responsible company in the community,” Boudreaux said.

Jacqie McWilliams knows firsthand what doors can be opened when someone is given a chance.

She is the first black commissioner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. McWilliams has also served on the NCAA Gender Equity Task Force since 2016. She previously officiated NCAA championships for nine years.

McWilliams was conference player of the year in both basketball and volleyball at Hampton. She sees a responsibility in giving back to the pipeline that has given her so much.

“As a commissioner,” McWilliams said, “I have access to a whole lot of things, a platform in a position of power, which I think is quite humbling to have a place to advance others and for which I am I can use myself in spaces that some may never enter, even as a black woman.”

McWilliams and others have fought many battles along the way and understand there is still much progress to be made. The fight for this equality has taken different forms in the last 50 years.

McWilliams cited the social media posts that pointed to the fairness issues at the 2021 NCAA tournaments.

“I don’t think there’s a time now when we can’t invest the way we have historically,” McWilliams said.

For Gilder, that meant pouring her passion into trying to make the WNBA a thriving enterprise, both with the team that co-owns her and across the league. She is also an advocate for growth and change within her league.

“There is great recognition that the WNBA, and certainly the Storm, provides an authentic expression for any person or business that cares about diversity, equity (and) inclusion,” Gilder said. “We wouldn’t exist as a league without Title IX. It is authentic for us to work for social change.

“We don’t do that in our free time,” she added. “We are, and the culture has shifted a bit to support that and to recognize how important it is.”

However, Gilder notes that prejudice still runs rampant in society. She said while it’s not as obvious as it was before the law was passed, it says there needs to be sustained pressure for justice.

“You have to normalize how people think about things, piece by piece,” Gilder said. “But you do it one by one enough, it starts to build into a wave. It’s like any kind of change.

https://www.king5.com/article/sports/wnba/storm/title-ix-wnba-owner-among-women-athletes-running-businesses/281-d9015211-4af9-4257-b54d-f3f9734cee54 Title IX: WNBA owner among women athletes running businesses

Emma Bowman

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