Meredith College President Jo Allen presented the College’s 2013 Woman of Achievement Award to Bernice Sandler, a women’s equality advocate known as the “godmother” of Title IX.
Sandler was at Meredith on February 20, 2013, to deliver the Woman of Achievement Lecture, in commemoration of Meredith College Founders’ Day.
The Meredith College Woman of Achievement award is presented each year to an individual who has made a profound and positive impact on the world. President Jo Allen, ’80, made the presentation to Sandler on behalf of the Meredith community.
“Through this award, Meredith College celebrates an extraordinary woman who has modeled success, accomplishment, vision, leadership, integrity and service to improve the lives of others,” Allen said. "I am delighted to present this award to a woman who has embodied these characteristics throughout her career, making it possible for countless other women to accomplish their goals and aspirations. Her work has truly been groundbreaking.”
Sandler played a major role in the development and passage of Title IX and other laws prohibiting sex discrimination in education, and has been called the “godmother of Title IX” by The New York Times.
“Title IX is the most important law for women and girls since women obtained the right to vote,” Sandler said.
In her speech, “The Untold Story of Title IX: How we got it when no one was looking,” Sandler described the situation for women and girls before the law was passed. Girls could not take certain courses, and some majors were closed to women. Women scholars applying to college academic departments were often told the “department had already hired a woman.”
When Sandler experienced discrimination in hiring, she began to research sex discrimination. “I naively assumed that because sex discrimination was immoral, it must be illegal,” Sandler said. She found that there were no laws against sex discrimination in the U.S. at the time.
When it was passed in 1972, Sandler said many were “not watching to see what impact the bill would have” and the result was far-reaching change. Although often known as the “athletic law,” Title IX applies to almost all areas of education, from kindergarten through graduate school.
“The word ‘sports’ doesn’t appear anywhere in the bill … Title IX covers everything unless an issue is specifically exempted,” Sandler said.
Sandler said the accomplishments of Title IX include “increased awareness of sex discrimination … it ended many overt policies that discriminated against women.”
While many improvements have been made in the lives of women as a result of Title IX, Sandler said true equality will take time.
“We are talking about enormous change – it is a revolution with as much impact as the industrial revolution,” Sandler said.
Sandler serves as a senior scholar at the Women’s Research and Education Institute in Washington, D.C., where she consults with institutions and others about achieving equity for women, and is an adjunct associate professor at Drexel University College of Medicine. Sandler is well-known for her expertise in women’s educational equity in general, as well as in sexual harassment and the chilly classroom climate for women.
Sandler is the seventh recipient of the Meredith College Woman of Achievement Award, which was first presented in 2007. Previous recipients are theologian Phyllis Trible, ’54, political journalist Judy Woodruff, who attended Meredith from 1964-66, oceanaut Celine Cousteau, Komen Foundation founder Nancy Goodman Brinker, Tony Award winning choreographer Twyla Tharp and social media specialist Randi Zuckerberg.