FRESNO, Calif. -- Action News is proud to join our parent company Disney and ESPN in the new "Fifty-50" initiative commemorating the 50th anniversary of Title IX. The monumental civil rights law prohibits sex-based discrimination at any educational institution that receives federal funding.
Two Fresno State professors were some of the first women whose young lives were forever different when Title IX passed. Now, they are paving the path for decades to come.
Dr. Dawn Lewis and Dr. Kathryn Forbes are both professors at Fresno State and some of the first beneficiaries of Title IX.
Dr. Forbes started elementary school a year after the civil rights law passed in 1972.
"I have been a beneficiary of Title IX my entire career but I also had women as mentors that were not beneficiaries of Title IX," she says.
Kathryn remembers her women coaches fighting tooth and nail to get girls sports teams uniforms and a place to practice.
Actions that have shaped her philosophy as a feminist, professor and department chair of women's gender and sexuality studies at Fresno State.
"Part of the way my political consciousness developed throughout the years was influenced by women who paved the way in creating gender equity within public institutions," says Kathryn.
During her time as a professor, she has seen a shift in the way the new generation welcomes gender equality.
"The students really embrace feminism both as a political movement and as an identity without a second thought,'' she says.
Her colleague, Dr. Dawn Lewis, is a professor in kinesiology and sports psychology. Dawn is a former college athlete and former assistant coach for the men's track and field team at Michigan State.
RELATED: Title IX: Explaining the landmark civil rights law
Dr. Lewis says although things have changed in the last 50 years, women are still up against more barriers than men.
"Women have to compete against both women who are qualified and men who are qualified in coaching women's sports," she says.
Dawn says oftentimes, men have more contacts than women do, and to this day, "Fresno State has not had a woman as an Athletic Director, so I would put it out there, aren't we ready? I think we are."
She says she has a long list of women who are capable, ready and have the experience to take on Fresno State athletics.
"It is now time we put the women in the seat, because they are not disadvantaged anymore," she said.
Both Dawn and Kathryn suggest we have a ways to go not only in sports but also in the STEM field.
Cultural norms and access to resources play a big role.
"I would say my call to action would be 'find where women are missing and figure out why, and then figure out a way to get them there.'" says Dr. Forbes.
Dr. Forbes says thanks to the next generation, the future looks bright, but they are still working towards reaching gender equality.
ABC Owned Television Stations and ABC's Localish present 50 inspiring stories from around the country for Fifty/50, as part of The Walt Disney Company's monumental initiative highlighting the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funding, and gave women the equal opportunity to play.
The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ESPN, Localish and this station.