A little over a year ago, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion before the Women Law Students’ Association at Arizona State University. The panel that preceded mine featured Judge Mary Schroeder of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch of the Arizona Supreme Court. Judge Schroeder was the first woman to become a partner in a major Phoenix law firm in 1975 and was the first, and to date only, woman to serve as chief judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
After the two judges finished their presentation and started to accept questions from the audience, a law student asked what the major differences were today for young female lawyers starting their careers, as opposed to the 1970s. Judge Schroeder had an immediate response.
“Team sports. Young women today have participated in team sports in high school and in college. They understand teamwork, competition and dealing with success and failure much better. It makes a huge difference to lawyers working in a law firm if they have played team sports.”
This Saturday is the 40th anniversary of Title IX. The year before Title IX was enacted, the same year the Judge Schroeder started work as an associate at the law firm of Lewis and Roca, there were about 310,000 girls and women in the U.S. playing high school and college sports. Today, there are almost 3.4 million. Few laws have had as pervasive an impact on our society during the last two generations as Title IX.
In a well done opinion piece in today’s New York Times, Allen Barra reminds us that we should thank Richard Nixon for signing Title IX.
“It’s almost certain that Nixon signed it into law without considering the potential impact on women’s athletics,” Barra writes. “After all, he had other things on his mind; six days before, five men had been arrested breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex. Talk about anniversaries.” — Dan Barr