ALLENDALE, Mich. — 50 years ago, many of the women's sports teams at Grand Valley and other public colleges across the country didn't exist.
June 23rd celebrates the 50 year anniversary of Title IX, American legislation stating that no one can be discriminated against because of their gender in education and athletics.
"It's about being grateful and that gratitude for where we're at. But it's also about a sense of responsibility, what I need to do, and what I need to commit to going forward," sad GVSU Athletic Director Keri Becker.
When Nancy Giardina graduated, just 1 in every 27 girls participated in youth sports. Thanks to Title IX, it's now 2 in 5 girls that are on the field or court.
"Title IX implemented in 1972 and I graduated undergraduate school in 1974. And the immediate change we saw was women who came out of undergraduate degrees in health and physical education and were coaching, began to create the programs that didn't exist," said Nancy Giardina, a professor of movement science at Grand Valley.
The numbers in girls and women's participation is increasing, but sophomore guard and Westphalia native Ellie Droste says there's still a stigma around women's sports.
"I mean I just wish that we could get a little more support. I think it's starting to get better. I think we're starting to get more crowds, I definitely think we're starting to get more recognized but there still is that 'NBA' stereotype, like they're going to be better. But I think as we continue to grow and continue to get better, I think this is a great opportunity for us females," said Ellie Droste, a sophomore guard on the women's basketball team.
Title IX usually gets brought up in conversations of athletics, but it has a huge impact on education. Just 11% of women had a bachelor's degree in 1970, that number has jumped to 45% as of 2019. Charisse Mitchell, the CEO of the YWCA of West and Central Michigan says they've been promoting girls and women's equity for over 100 years.
"Just knowing that the YW(CA) has been engaged in, as a part of our mission, empowering women and girls. Knowing that from our inception in 1900 here Grand Rapids and in 1921 when we built this building, we were stepping into spaces saying we've got to make a space for women and girls to live and thrive," said Charisse Mitchell, the CEO of the YWCA of West and Central Michigan.
There is still a ton of progress to be made when it comes to gender equity in education and sports, but Giardinia thinks Grand Valley is on the right track.
"I'm incredibly proud of our athletic director Keri Becker, the entire coaching staff, and the men here at GVSU who support women's sports as well," said Giardina.