Dawn Staley: Equality for women

As told to Susie Perloff

"I anticipate a time when women will get an equal opportunity to excel in areas that are now predominantly male. That’s not much to ask for – especially since women are qualified to run corporations, coach NBA teams and drive race cars. I recently attended a monthly meeting of 40 business leaders in Columbia, South Carolina, and saw only one woman. I told the men that I coach some pretty intelligent young women, and in the future, I hoped to see women sitting where they were.

"It’s been the norm to accept that men run the world. If we allow women into these all-male arenas --  give women an opportunity to shine outside the box that men have put them in -- then opportunities will follow for minorities as well. Some women have already opened doors in the National Basketball Association. But do you know that more men than women work as head coaches in the Women’s National Basketball Association? Is that absurd?

"I don’t get angry. When I read statistics and learn about what’s going on outside my field, it’s unsettling. First and foremost, I am concerned about inner-city youth, most of whom come from single-parent households in poverty-stricken, drug-infested neighborhoods. Their parents have not finished high school, and the kids – especially the girls – have no aspirations for college. 

"You have to get them up to appropriate reading levels and expose them to different professions. You have to mentor them, tutor them and coach them in athletics. You have to boost their confidence. I’ve been working on this in Philadelphia, and now I’m trying to implement a program in Columbia, South Carolina.

"I was lucky to have two parents. My mother, who didn’t finish high school, was a strict disciplinarian who wanted something better for her five kids. All graduated from high school, two went to college and we’re all still living. I consider that a success.

"The measure of success is personal: How many people you touch in a positive way. How much you give back to your community, assuring that girls are equipped with the skills to play, to be players, to be team-mates, and eventually to lead. By 2020, I hope more women and girls succeed in all areas."

Written for Vision 2020.