40 years later, Title IX has changed women's sports forever

One of the little known facts about Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz was that he was a big supporter of women's athletics and women athletes.

In 1974, for instance, Mr. Schulz helped tennis legend Billie Jean King found the Women's Sports Foundation.

In a 1979 Schulz strip, Peppermint Patty said: "I have a vision, Chuck, ... I can see a day coming when women will have the same opportunities in sports as men!"

A key to that vision, however, was the landmark 1972 federal legislation, Title IX, which changed women's sports forever.

Appropriately, the Charles M. Schulz Museum is marking the 40th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX with special exhibit, Leveling the Playing Field, through Aug. 12. And in collaboration with the museum, the Business Journal's 2012 Women in Business Awards will carry on the theme of the 40th anniversary, including with the keynote speaker for the June 28 gala, Missy Park, the founder of the Berkeley-based Title Nine sportswear. Founded in 1989 by the former Yale athlete, the company distributes 15,000 catalogs has 19 retail locations and 243 employees.

Now in its 12th year, Women in Business has honored more than 100 female innovators, leaders and visionaries. It was the vision of its founder, Debbie Meekins, the California market president for Sonoma Bank, that Women in Business create a space where the unique opportunities and challenges women take on could be aired.

It's an important vision. Here's just one reason why.

In an interview with the Women in the World Foundation, Ms. Park was asked by she was celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Here's what she said: "My generation was the trailblazer generation and then there was this second generation that really benefited from it, and now there is this third generation who really don't know about it at all. You ask 20 women ages 20 to 30, 'What is Title IX?' and most of them wouldn't really have any idea."

The 2012 Women in Business Awards hope to play some role in helping Ms. Park and the Schulz museum celebrate and spread the word about the incredible impact of Title IX, which required schools receiving federal funds to have equal athletic opportunities for women. And just in case you are wondering how big that impact was, just consider the teacher of a high school economics class I recently visited. She had played soccer at Santa Clara University and Notre Dame.

Peppermint Patty really did have a vision....

Brad Bollinger is the editor and associate publisher of the Business Journal. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or bbollinger@busjrnl.com. Nominations for Women in Business have been extended to April 20 at NorthBayBusinessJournal.com.

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