It’s been a good year for women working in college sports. In just the first half of 2017, 21 women have been hired into athletic director and commissioner roles across all NCAA divisions, and we’ve matched the 2016 total number of women named to Division I athletic director roles at six.

Would we be seeing this kind of progress in intercollegiate athletics without Title IX? Absolutely not! On the 45th anniversary of this ground-breaking legislation, the playing field is slowly but surely being leveled. To celebrate, we asked our members — women leaders in collegiate athletics — to tell us how Title IX has played a part in their success, and we called the series #BecauseofTitleIX.

Finding a voice

Many talked about how playing sports helped them find and use their voice in a world — and in a male-dominated industry — where it can be easily silenced. Shonna Brown, executive associate commissioner of the America East Conference, says, “As a basketball player in my teenage years, I found my voice encouraging and leading teams. As a distance runner, I found my peace and learned to listen to that voice.” These qualities serve Shonna each day as the leader of an NCAA Division I conference.

Counting the benefits

“One of the most important lessons we’ve learned in the last 45 years is it takes all of us — men and women — to achieve equality.”

Women like Charmelle Green, senior associate athletic director at Penn State University, Natalie Winkelfoos, director of athletics at Oberlin College, Lindsay Reeves, director of athletics at the University of North Georgia, and Jennifer Strawley, deputy director of athletics at the University of Miami, say the confidence, work ethic, teamwork, dedication and power they learned from sports are skills they draw upon today in the board room, with a donor, or at a press conference.

Put differently, “How hasn’t Title IX impacted my life?” says Noreen Morris, commissioner of the Northeast Conference. “Competing in sports at all levels molded me into the person I am today: A strong, confident, hard-working professional who understands the value of teamwork, relationship building, goal-setting and learning from my mistakes.”

Riding the wave

Through sport, our members discovered the passion they’d ultimately dedicate their lives to. Chris Voelz, executive director of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards, says she “was fortunate to ride the wave of Title IX throughout my entire professional career, and it became my lifework. Could I imagine my life without Title IX? No.”

One of the most important lessons we’ve learned in the last 45 years is it takes all of us — men and women — to achieve equality. Each one of is here because of the trailblazers who came before and fought for equality. And we will continue to move the needle in college athletics by lifting as we rise. I can’t wait to see how we have progressed at the 50-year anniversary.