EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of FOX Sports’ series commemorating the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which was enacted into law on June 23, 1972. The series tells the stories of significant women in sports today, both celebrating the progress that has been made and recognizing the barriers that still remain.
When Kim Ng was a senior softball player at the University of Chicago and the president of the school’s Women’s Athletic Association, captaining her team and majoring in public policy, she wrote her thesis on Title IX.
The research so intrigued her that she wondered if there might be a career for her in sports.
This was the spring of 1990. Ng had been interested in baseball since she was a kid in Queens, New York, but she had never considered pursuing it professionally. Thirty years later, the Miami Marlins hired Ng to become the first female general manager in Major League Baseball history. Her barrier-breaking path started when she began to consider the history of the legislation that is this month celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Title IX, authored by Sen. Birch Bay and Reps. Patsy Mink and Edith Green, prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal-government funding. At the time of its passing, a reported 42% of American college students identified as female. As of spring 2021, women made up nearly 60% of American college students, according to studies.
The law is not alone responsible for the shift in college attendance, but experts say it has played a significant role in providing women opportunities that, a generation ago, did not exist.
Ng was already passionate about leveling the playing field before her senior thesis; that’s why she chose to pursue the topic in the first place. But she grasped a broader understanding through conducting her research.
Ng told the University of Chicago Magazine in 2018 that the legislation “explained why I had a lot of the opportunities that I did and how much work we still had to do.”
She began applying for internships in her favorite sport shortly after submitting her thesis. Obtaining one required unusual persistence.
“I think it started for me when I showed a little gumption after my first interview with the Chicago White Sox,” Ng told FOX Sports last year. “Actually, my second interview. They told me I didn’t get the job, and I decided that that really wasn’t acceptable, and I called back, and I said I’d work for free.
“I think it was really that moment that they saw my character and saw that I wasn’t really willing to give up on it and offered me the job. So that was definitely a turning point for me.”
The next turning point came around the time former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Dan Evans hired her as an assistant GM in 2001. Ng has said she then began to believe that becoming an MLB GM was conceivable, one day.
“Once I got to the Dodgers and got a better sense of where I stood in the universe, I realized that ‘OK, maybe this is doable,’” Ng told FOX Sports last year. “I think also the relationships that I had and was able to build with baseball people at that level, that had to be a concern for me just being a woman — and being one of the only women.
“As we know, a lot of this business is conducted by relationships and knowing people, knowing where you can turn and having resources. I think that part of it started to get firmed up in my head that this really was a possibility.”
Evans, who had also hired Ng with the White Sox, agreed. He said decades ago that Ng stood a great chance of becoming a GM.
But the following 20 years illustrated the work that remains to be done in equalizing opportunities for men and women to lead in professional sports. Ng interviewed for a number of GM jobs and was repeatedly rejected in favor of similarly — or sometimes less — qualified men. She continued to gather experience, with teams and later with the league office.
Ng did not receive her first chance until Derek Jeter, with whom she had worked with the Yankees, took control of the Marlins.
“I never got scared off,” she said. “I think in some ways and at certain points, I think it makes you a little bit tougher because you don’t want to succumb to what many people actually already think.”
Ng, of Chinese descent, identifies as Asian-American, and few minority candidates of any gender have won the job sweepstakes in American professional sports. In the best-case scenario, her rise will mark the next step forward for minorities in a historically closed-off field. It’ll let someone else know it’s doable, like Elaine Weddington Steward’s ascendance in the Boston Red Sox organization and, later, Jean Afterman’s ascendance in the Yankees’ front office did for Ng.
Already, the gates seem to be opening. In 2022, women such as Rachel Balkovec, Alyssa Nakken and Sara Goodrum are managing minor-league teams, coaching on major-league teams and running player-development departments. Like Ng before them, many of them played softball at the collegiate level and got their starts on the lowest rungs of gargantuan organizational charts.
Like Ng before them, they are rising.
Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the Dodgers for three seasons for The Athletic and, before that, the Angels and Dodgers for five seasons for the Orange County Register and L.A. Times. More previously, he covered his alma mater, USC, for ESPNLosAngeles.com. The son of Brazilian immigrants, he grew up in the Southern California suburbs. His first book, “How to Beat a Broken Game,” came out this spring. Follow him on Twitter at @pedromoura.
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