Celebrating 40 Years Of Equal Opportunity For Women

Sen. Michelle Kidani

Sen. Michelle Kidani

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the enactment of one of the most significant laws passed by the U.S. Congress in modern times – Title IX of the Higher Education Act.

In just a brief 37 words, the new law impacted millions of lives in a most dramatic fashion.

Title IX says: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

This landmark law succeeded in opening the doors to educational institutions for women who previously had few opportunities to study law, medicine, the sciences or other disciplines, sometimes even at the undergraduate level.

The law also was interpreted to include participation in intercollegiate athletics. And so if you have a sister, niece, daughter or granddaughter who is involved in organized sports, or if you are a fan of the Wahine volleyball, softball or basketball teams – or any of the nine other women’s sports teams at the University of Hawaii – you can thank Title IX.

In our own neighborhood, the very heavily-used 270-acre Central Oahu Regional Park stands as a highly visible reminder of the sports legacy of Title IX. The park was named to honor Hawaii’s former U.S. Rep. Patsy T. Mink, who wrote the law and guided it through to Congressional approval.

She did so in part because of her own encounters with discrimination as she tried to fulfill her life’s dream of becoming a doctor. No medical school would admit her, denying her applications simply because she was a woman. Instead, she pursued a legal education, but even then she was the only woman to graduate with her class from the University of Chicago Law School. Bottom line, in the words of a documentary filmmaker who chronicled her life and times, “When they told her no, she changed the rules.”

Last month, as the Hawaii Legislature observed Education Week at the Capitol, we honored five outstanding Hawaii women who benefited from Title IX, and who continue to educate and advocate on behalf of women and men who experience discrimination in any form.

They are:

* Marilyn MonizKahoohanohano, assistant athletic director and senior women administrator at UH Manoa

* Sabrina McKenna, Associate Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court

* Jill Nunokawa, UH Manoa civil rights specialist

* Jennifer Rose, UH Manoa gender equity specialist

* Catherine Betts, executive director, Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women

We congratulate them and commend their work on behalf of girls and women and all of us, fulfilling both the spirit and the letter of Title IX – the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

The Legislature is nearing the end of the 60-day session, and if schedules hold, we will adjourn May 3. There is much work still to be done as details of the state’s budget are fine-tuned. I hear daily from people in my district, and I encourage your input on issues of concern to you and your neighbors.

Please feel free to contact my office: telephone 586-7100; email: senkidani@capitol.hawaii.gov ; or stop by Room 228 at the State Capitol.