All three members of the Seattle Storm's ownership group, Force 10 Hoops LLC, came of age as Title IX was beginning to change the world of women's sports. Directly or indirectly, the ripple effects of Title IX helped lead Lisa Brummel, Ginny Gilder and Dawn Trudeau toward one day owning a professional basketball team.
In 1976, during her freshman year at Yale University, Gilder became part of a famous Title IX protest. Unwilling to accept inferior shower facilities to those enjoyed by the male crew team, Gilder and her teammates participated in a "Strip In" at the office of Joni Barrett, the school's women's athletics director. Lest the message be lost, the women had "Title IX" painted on their chests and backs. The experience helped Gilder realize the power of the legislation.
"The captain of my team, Chris Ernst, was discussing how we could address this inequity with the University, and brought up Title IX," Gilder said in a recent interview with WNBA.com. "This was something that would give us some real teeth - something powerful - to use, and we could get the University to listen."
Brummel remembers reading about the "Strip In" and considering it an important moment for women in sports. Two years later, she would follow Gilder to Yale, where she starred on the basketball court and the softball diamond, benefiting from the progress the school had made in the interim.
"The strip in was a HUGE deal at Yale and something that raised awareness for all of us about the role of women in sports," said Brummel. "The men at Yale still received preferential court times and some preferential facilities, but it was clear things were changing and I really do credit Ginny and her team for leading the way there."
While Gilder was not an athlete until she reached college, Title IX helped create opportunities for Brummel to translate her interest in sports to a more organized setting.
"Until I was a sophomore in high school I did not play any sport in an organized way," she recalled. "No leagues, no coaches; nothing but playground stuff. I did play sports (basketball, baseball, ice hockey, football, whatever) with kids in the neighborhood, but never anything organized until my first year of high school."
The lessons Gilder learned as an athlete, and in particular from standing up for better treatment, resonated as she moved into her professional career.
"I become feisty and tough as a result of that experience and it propelled me forward, first in athletics and later in my life after athletics."
"I was a young kid on that team, and after the protest I learned an important lesson: Don't take no for an answer," she said. "Don't let people tell you your dreams can't come true. And I applied that first, athletically, where I wouldn't take no for answer when naysayers said I would never medal in rowing at the Olympics. I become feisty and tough as a result of that experience and it propelled me forward, first in athletics and later in my life after athletics."
Trudeau, working in the male-dominated field of computer programming, saw something similar with former athletes in the workplace.
"I think it's the combination of them gaining their own confidence and individual strength as well as understanding how to compete," she said. "In business, you compete all the time. It's a different kind of competition than athletic competition, but it's definitely competition."
Now, the three women are helping to create opportunities for a new generation of female athletes as owners of the Storm. Their vision for the organization is very much in the spirit of Title IX. Gilder points out, "it's probably not a tremendous coincidence" that she's a part of the ownership group.
"When I was a young female athlete it was a fantasy that you could play in a pro women's league, and now it's a dream," Gilder said. "That's a big difference. The WNBA built windows where there used to be walls."
In addition to succeeding on the court, Force 10 Hoops seeks to promote strong female role models. Trudeau points out it's not just the players who young girls can see in positions of leadership.
"Seeing the female ownership group, that you can be an owner of a team even if you're not a player on the team, that you can be the CEO and run a successful franchise - I think that's all part of what we try to represent in the WNBA," she said.