“Being an athlete prepared me for the workforce”

Today, women are able to benefit from Title IX, signed into law, 45 years ago. Title IX is a law banning sex discrimination in publicly funded institutions, giving female students access to play sports, a privilege their male counterparts have always been able to take advantage of. For some, this means a great way to stay in shape and have fun after school, but for many women, like Nicki Barnes, Title IX also meant access to higher education and a world of opportunities that if she were alive 45 years ago, she would not have had the opportunity to pursue.

Nicki Barnes was destined to become an athlete, just like her mother. Growing up, Barnes saw her mother participate in many sports, an opportunity that was not afforded to women for generations before her. Barnes shared her mother’s passion for sports and soon was off to represent Marquette University on their NCAA Division I women’s volleyball team.

“With Title IX, women are able to get involved with sports based on merit, not gender,” said Barnes. “More importantly, Title IX provides an opportunity for women who excel in athletics to pursue higher education through sports scholarships.”

Barnes recently graduated with a double major in finance and information technology from Marquette University College of Business Administration. She played four seasons of NCAA Division I volleyball, with Big East Conference Tournament and NCAA Tournament appearances each of the four years. Needless to say, sports played a huge role in Barnes’s experience with higher education, and she believes it has also impacted her career.

While interviewing for jobs, Barnes shared that her experiences as a student-athlete helped her stand out. Her dedication to sports was a talking point at each of her job interviews. Barnes said she continuously emphasized how being a student-athlete made her better prepared to deal with real life situations in the workplace, including her time management and discipline.

Barnes doesn’t recall talking about Title IX with her teammates, but thanks to Title IX, Barnes was able to use sports as a springboard to create career success for herself – both opportunities that women before her only dreamed of having.

“There’s a widespread tendency to take Title IX for granted today because it’s already passed and we aren’t part of the struggle of getting it signed. I was fortunate to grow up in a time when girls had a lot of opportunity,” she said. Now, Barnes couldn’t imagine her life without sports or the experiences she has had because of sports. And she is passionate about instilling her passion to pursue sports with others, including her sisters.

This fall, Barnes’s sisters are taking after her, with four of them playing volleyball on club teams and another beginning her first season as a Division I volleyball player at the University of Minnesota. Barnes is proud to be a positive role model for her sisters as an athlete and enjoys sharing her athletic experiences with others as well. In fact, this June, Barnes was invited to speak on a panel discussion for the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee about Title IX, discussing the progress overcome and the obstacles still in the path.

“I would encourage people like me, who didn’t know about Title IX, to get involved in these conversations that organizations like the Women’s Fund are starting. Tough conversations need to be had. Despite Title IX passing 45 years ago, men and women are still not given equal opportunity in sports.There’s still a lot of progress to be made and I look forward to being a part of this positive change.”

The Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee is a vehicle for positive change. The organization is propelling issues to center stage by bringing the Milwaukee community together and initiating dynamic discussions with a diverse group of people. Through these conversations, the Women’s Fund hopes to raise awareness for the continued importance of Title IX and support women who are striving to pursue their dreams through HER Scholarships, programming and more.