I grew up less than an hour from Seneca Falls, NY where the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention took place. There, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony led the issuance a Declaration of Sentiments stating that “All men and women are created equal.”
The movement to secure a women’s right to vote took more than another seventy years from the convention, culminating in the nineteenth Amendment. To people younger than fifty—and therefore becoming adults after the women’s liberation movement and sexual revolution—it can be difficult to conceive of the barriers faced by women in prior generations, much less that only a century ago women could not even cast a ballot.
While much progress has been made, we have the responsibility to recognize and actively confront what are significant remaining challenges including sexual harassment, equal pay and confronting domestic violence. On the playground, according to a USA Today study, girls report being bullied an average of once every seven minutes.
Participation on the sports field has been dramatically affected by the 1972 enactment of Title IX—best known for its impact on athletic opportunities for women and girls. Since then, the number of female graduates from college increased from 40% to 50%. In 1971, the year before Title IX became law, fewer than 300,000 girls participated in high school sports: about one in twenty-seven. Today, the number is 3.3 million, or approximately one in two-and-a-half.
The number of women participating in intercollegiate sports in that same span has gone from about 30,000 to more than 150,000. In the last twenty years alone, the number of women’s college sports teams has nearly doubled. While still not 50-50 as promised by the legislation, this certainly represents progress.
Leading change takes courage, passion, character and resilience—all things that we need to counter persistent and new challenges in the world today. In the squash world, we’re encouraged by the recent positive moves in hosting women’s events in Saudi Arabia, merging the women’s and men’s tours and moving towards full parity in prize money. The next few generations, however, still have their work cut out for them.
We at US Squash are committed to expanding and promoting programs that bring more women on the court, and that advocate for women choosing coaching as a profession. We are resolute in our commitment as leaders in the drive for full prize money parity at the professional level. We strive to provide equal coverage through our media efforts, and celebrate excellence among the female athletes, coaches, and administrators who drive our sport forward.
The lessons of history are consistent and clear. We experience cycles of advocacy, opportunities are earned, challenges are met and potential is realized. The cycle repeats. The world desperately needs more women in leadership roles, and while it’s unfortunate this needs to be stated, until it doesn’t, it will be, and we will do our part to act.