My first idea that a woman could play basketball at the ‘top’ level was in 1979 when I saw a small blurb in our local paper in New Hampshire about Ann Meyers trying out for the NBA Indiana Pacers. For me this was a huge revelation - a woman competing in high level basketball! This was something I had previously thought only the Celtics did and they were all men as far as I could see in the Concord Monitor sports pages. It was a turning point for me that I then thought, maybe I could play basketball in college and maybe even on a men’s pro team?! I did get to play in college at Ithaca thanks to Title IX but being 5’ 4”, I did not move beyond rec leagues and a dashed hope of being on the All American Redheads traveling team.
While working at the Women’s Sports Foundation I got the chance to meet Annie Meyers and tell her how her photo had stayed on my bulletin board for years and that she was a role model to me. Every day at the Women’s Sports Foundation we helped girls imagine the roles they could play as physical beings, as athletes and as leaders. We showcased images and athletes with their personal stories to help girls visualize themselves on a kiteboard, wrestling on a mat, lifting weights or spiking a volleyball. Women’s sports coverage is still less than 8% of all sports media coverage so promoting vibrant women athletes in action in any medium is a bonus. This is especially true for girls to see as they wonder about how to showcase their strength and power as they walk through puberty.
There is something to be said about actually seeing the possibility of one’s self in a job, a sport or a position. Ask any young African American boy about his career path now that President Obama is in the White House. Ask a Latina girl how she feels about her future with Judge Sonia Sotomayor on her way to being a Supreme Court Justice.
Amy Sewell and Heather Ogilvie put together “She’s Out There” to do just that; to show girls that they can be leaders – in fact – to lead from the most powerful position as President of the United States. The book, She's Out There; Essays by 35 Young Women Who Aspire to Lead the Nation, showcases teenage girls who now, after watching then Senator Clinton run for President in 2008, have their own ideas and dreams about how and why they can serve in a leadership role. Film coverage has shown the change in Liberian girl’s ideas of their lives after the formidable Ellen Sirleaf Johnson was elected as President of Liberia.
Think of the great story of Ursula Burns, now CEO of Xerox, who worked her way up in the company to now be the first African American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. What an impressive story of leadership and determination over time. Now if we can only keep getting these role models out there in equal amounts to the women who are portrayed because of their choices of clothing or beauty tips. She’s Out There is a start; for young women to see peers of strength and for as many of us to "be it".