Sharing My Story at the International Women’s Day Celebration

2014-03-20 05.50.16As someone who grew up in a time period when women, like children, should be seen, not heard, I grew up without a voice. I wrote Home Sweet Hardwood, a Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Barriers Through Basketball to tell the story of the pioneers. Since its publication, I have been invited to speak at dozens of functions including ironically those hosted by organizations like the Rotary, Kiwanis and NCAA, who for years denied access to women. I never passed up a chance to share our story and felt especially privileged to be invited to speak to the next generation at the International School of Zurich (ZIS) for their International Women’s Day March 8th celebration.

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

Coincidentally, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) as part of the International Women’s Year 1975, which was the same year the groundbreaking Title IX (June 23, 1972) was to be in regulation. This year, the IWD theme “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up For Gender Equality” focuses on women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.

As a misfit in an era when female athletes (especially in team sport) were ostracized from society, I grew up on the fringes of girl groups, hanging out as one of the boys. In adulthood, as a basketball coach in a field dominated by male coaches, officials, and athletic directors, I often felt like the odd “man” out. It has been a pleasure to see more women joining the ranks in sports and to offer a tribute to the women and men who contributed to women’s rights advancement in my homeland.

Gradually, Title IX revolutionized women’s lives in America by opening doors to education and athletics. Though we may be growing closer to gender parity in the West, women lag far behind in many parts of the world. Women are subject to sex abuse and domestic violence and continue to be denied access to health care, education and equal opportunity in the work place.

The need to celebrate women’s day remains crucial.

Step It Up Highlight“Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly and each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to help include and advance women.”

Change begins with one voice, one dream, one step.

On March 8th, I will be speaking in a room filled with girls from around the globe, movers and shakers of the next era, who will go on to become doctors, lawyers, diplomats, and leaders in their own countries. It dawned on me, maybe, my role all along was not to play ball, but to share my experience to inspire, to light the fire, and pass the torch to a younger generation who can use their talents to make this a better world.

I finally know who I am… an international woman.

Please join us in the party. Take time to celebrate the women in your life and make a pledge for parity.

Timeline: Women's Footprint in History

fascinating timeline – be patient, takes long to upload, but it is worth waiting

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, social view.

24 Comments

  1. You are such a trailblazer in so many ways and I’m thrilled that you were part of such a wonderful event. You go, Pat!

    • Thanks Cathy and you are one of the people that inspires me to keep on keeping on and fighting in the face of adversity. I look to you and follow your blog An Empowered Spirit to continue to face health issues with grace.

  2. “One voice, one Dream, one step”….love this phrase as it’s exactly who you are! Great article/speech Pat! I applaud all that you do for women and people in need around the world- Bravo!!

  3. Love that quote Pat. It is the essence of what women can do to make change come about. You keep -a-going International woman~ you are truly that!! Blessings

  4. Would have loved to hear your voice in person on such an important issue! Keep writing! Keep speaking! Keep telling your story-it’s an amazing one!

  5. This year, International Women’s Day falls on my birthday! I am celebrating by attending a concert featuring several all-women bands. If we don’t celebrate ourselves, who will?

  6. You are a true trailblazing, amazing pioneer for women’s parity, Pat. You fought the good fight with true grit and are now on a mission to spread the word through your example.I wish I could be there to hear you speak. I know you would move me to tears because I am usually moved to tears when I read your posts..in a good way, leaving me inspired and motivated. Keep up your great work. You are truly making a difference in the world. 🙂

    • Thanks Kathy. I will be speaking for you too and hope you can feel my strength and support as you face your latest challenge. Keep writing and sharing your work in advocacy to end domestic violence. Yours too is a story of iron will, resiliency and empowerment.

  7. Bless you, Pat, for carrying the torch! I know just what you mean…as a tennis player, most times I had to play with the guys because the girls flat couldn’t keep up. I didn’t mind one bit — only by playing against someone better than you can you learn and improve! You tell ’em!!

    • Debbie, like you mentioned, the only way I could progress in my sport was by playing against and with the boys and I used to love it and learned so much from them. First and foremost that if you get knocked down, brush it off and get back up. How is your back? I will riding out flat in the back seat on my road trip to Zurich, but I will be standing tall on March 8th when I speak for us.

      • Oh, Pat, I do hope your back lets you stand tall during your speech — meanwhile, riding lying down isn’t such a bad thing! My back feels like I’m gaining on it — one day at a time. Still, I guess I don’t “trust” the improvement and keep fearing the next shoe drop!

        • I stood tall to speak and then crawled to the back seat of the car during the long drive home. Glad your back is on the mend. I know the feeling though that one wrong move can send you spiraling backwards, but as athletes at least we have learned how to listen to our bodies and know what to do to fight back when that pain returns, unfortunately.

  8. Dear Pat, you help inspire me to be the woman I wish to be. Each year I reflect on the gender inequalities that I have navigated and wrestled with at many times during my life as a long-term single mum and an international educator. I will never be silent in relation to gender issues, as silence sends everything underground to fester and resurface in another form a while later. So I, too, fly the flag for women’s equality on this day with my ‘international’ daughters standing beside me. Speak in Zurich with the courage and passion that have always filled you up and made you the resilient and wonderful woman that you are I was the first female head of PE in the International School of Geneva apparently, so that’s a big feather in my cap… and I made some radical curriculum changes when I was there to account for the other half of our students who were also present but much marginalised – the girls!! ☺️ Hopefully, those changes live on. Keep pushing Pat, miss ya xxx

    • Rach, I saw firsthand the difference you made for girls at our school both in your teaching and in your role as a female leader in a male dominated arena, physical education and sport. I am sure you have continued to face as great of obstacles in academia; however, that never slowed you down. And equally valuable is the example you set everyday in raising your strong, beautiful international daughters. Miss you too dear friend, but I carry within me the lessons I learned from you during our days together in Geneva.

    • Thanks Helene. I truly felt that I was speaking for all women including the special friends, like you, that I connected with in midlife on our favorite boulevard.

  9. I thought of you today, Pat, as you presented at the International School of Zurich. How fitting that you were invited to speak since you were one of the trailblazers in women’s athletics. Thank you for sharing your story and continuing to inspire. And thank you for standing up for equality for EVERYONE and for setting such a wonderful example. I am so very proud to call you my sister.

    • Thank you, sis, for being with me every step of the way. In my greatest moments of self doubt, you have always been there and your belief in me has given me the courage to rise back up every time I collapsed in despair over setbacks from detours, disappointments and health issues.

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