Vol. 2, No. 3: The Goal Line Extends Through Infinity photo

How to Change the World in Fifty YearsNancy Jorgensen

In 1972, the year Title IX passed, I received my high school diploma in a field house where only boys had competed. On the basketball court, young men boxed out, then dribbled to the hoop for a jump shot. Behind the backboard, young women in short, pleated skirts and varsity sweaters shook their pom-poms—but only if they were pretty, slim, and popular.

I don’t remember being troubled.

A few months after my high school commencement, American swimmer Mark Spitz wowed the world, winning seven gold medals at the Munich Olympics. Although Olga Korbut, the Soviet gymnast, won three gold medals, only 14.6 percent of Olympic contestants were female.

I don’t remember thinking that odd.

In 1976, I received my college diploma on a campus of women, administered by women. In classrooms—music history, harmony, piano performance, choral methods, and education—women professors dominated. The female president of the college officiated the ceremony.

I remember thinking my education extraordinary.

In the 1980’s, a female colleague and I built a high school choral program. We recruited students, conducted Mozart masses, coached madrigal ensembles, and established a theatre troupe. Student membership topped 400. Our show choir competed nationally. Our concert choir won awards. USAToday named our production of Cats best high school musical in America. 

Male colleagues said, “Two women have no business running a program that size.”

I remember sensing envy.

My colleague and I cast my daughters as Tevye’s children in Fiddler on the Roof. My colleague choreographed the numbers, coached the actors, and designed the light scheme. I rehearsed the singers and conducted the orchestra of professional musicians.

I remember wondering if my daughters considered two women directors the norm.

A few years later, when my daughter Gwen entered high school, she swam, ran track and field, and competed in cross-country. She played basketball in the field house where I graduated. Then, she applied to colleges and universities where recruiters wooed her with Division I scholarships.

I remembered zero athletic scholarships for women in my class.

After Gwen graduated in 2009 from the University of Wisconsin, a woman at USA Triathlon recruited her, taught her to ride a bike, and mentored her into a spot on the Olympic team.

In the Rio 2016 Games, where females made up 45 percent of the Olympians, Gwen battled the ocean, flew down hills on her bike, and staged a dramatic foot race to claim Olympic gold.

My heart and I whooped as she ascended the podium, her face glistening from Brazil’s heat, humidity, and the glow of triumph. The crowd hooted. Then silence for the strains of USA’s anthem. Gwen’s hand rested above her gold medallion. More applause, cheers, tears. Hurrah!

I remember thinking Gwen’s victory an affirmation.