Former WNBA commissioner Donna Orender speaks on Title IX

Photo Credit: Shannon LeDuke/WJCT

All one has to do is look at the growth of women’s sports over the years and witness how much opportunity has risen for women and girls who wish to pursue sports to see the impact of Title IX.

It was passed in 1972 and provides opportunities for women and girls hoping to pursue sports.

Donna Orender, who served as president of the WNBA from 2005 to 2010, succeeding Val Ackerman, is set to deliver a keynote address at a Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee event later this month. She is currently the CEO of Orender Unlimited and has launched a platform called Generation W which describes itself as a women’s leadership conference comprised of a generation of women who want to make a difference.

One of the foci of the gathering is to address how the impact of Title IX goes far beyond more opportunities for women and girls to shoot hoops, score goals, and serve passes.

Orender was a guest along with Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee executive director Lisa Attonito on the Lake Effect program on WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio.

Why is it important today? Because we can’t let it slip back.

–Donna Orender

We also can’t avoid everything else Title IX has done – even access to college through sports scholarships and just the self-belief that ‘I can accomplish’ that a young woman might carry into college is valuable.


–Lisa Attonito

Orender also gave insight into just how much Title IX has meant to her and how it paved the way for the establishing of the WNBA in the 1990s.

It brought me to leadership of the WNBA – a league of female professional basketball players – that undoubtedly would never have existed if it wasn’t for the opportunities created by Title IX.

When I played sports, one in 27 girls played sports. I gave a TED Talk about this and I showed this whole pyramid and there’s one little red pyramid representing a little girl amongst all these 27 representations of people. Now, one in two-and-a-half girls play sports.

One of the experiences Orender talked about was when she was league president was when she was in attendance at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse (at the time the Conseco Fieldhouse) in Indianapolis for a Fever playoff game and it was filled to the rafters. Orender also mentioned how the Indianapolis Colts were playing that same day and many fans at the football left that event to watch the Fever.

I think the opportunity to be able to showcase as elite athletes and communicating that to young women and their families, but young men and their families that women are capable and they’re physically strong, and that what they do at a high elite level is worthy of fandom.

At this period in time, women’s sports are at a point where, steadily but surely, its athletes are receiving more recognition for their athletic achievements as well as being on the front lines in terms of fighting for social justice.

That fight for equality takes on many forms big and small and can even involve subtle acts that do not always have to be on display via demonstrations and protests. Attonito believes that young men in high school may look at women differently if they were coached to success by a woman.

If we could approach sport and the world of sports without a gender lens – imagine what the high school boys team – basketball, football, whatever – coached by a woman and what that would mean in their own development and impression of a woman and how that could then apply to the world of work.

Orender mentioned a story where her son, who plays high school basketball, could not practice with his team one day because the girls’ team was using the gym and how that in itself was attributed to Title IX.

The event which is set to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Title IX is set to take place on October 25 in downtown Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Bucks are one of the event’s equity sponsors.

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