Dr. Bill O' Gorman, from WIT, speaking about this site on WLR

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pioneering women from across the globe

The following extract was written by Shaun Bishop and was taken from Mercury news.com, 10th August 09. I chose this article because I thought it could be a source of inspiration for women in the South East.

Palo Alto resident Kathy Levinson isn't apt to back down from a challenge. As a three-sport varsity athlete at Stanford in the 1970s, she fought for female athletes to have equal access to good facilities and experienced coaches.

She worked her way through Silicon Valley's male-dominated financial services industry, eventually becoming the president and chief operating officer of E-Trade during the dot-com boom.

This week, the 54-year-old Levinson is playing racquetball in the 2009 National Senior Games despite having surgery less than three months ago on a torn meniscus in her right knee.

But she doesn't use that as an excuse, despite losing her first two matches in the 50+ division on Monday by close scores.

"I feel like I gave 'em a good match and I was competitive," Levinson said in the lobby of the Page Mill YMCA in Palo Alto as she iced her knee after the second match. "I played well. I gave it my best shot."

Levinson lost 13-15, 13-15 to Connecticut resident Pam Evans in the morning and 14-15, 10-15 to Colorado resident Cindy Tilbury in the afternoon.

Still, her high scores gave her enough points to have a shot at making a six-person playoff if she wins her two matches today.

This is her first racquetball competition since her then-partner Naomi Fine — now her wife — introduced her to it five or six years ago. But Levinson is no sports novice.

To her knowledge, she is the only athlete to compete in three varsity sports at Stanford — tennis, basketball and field hockey.

Off the court, she was active in the Organization of Stanford Women Athletes, which pushed for more experienced coaches, better uniforms and equal access to a gym only men played in. The group struggled to realize the promise of equality in Title IX, which passed in 1972.

"I'd like to think our fighting for rights of female athletes in college was part of what helped Stanford to have the great athletic program that is has now," Levinson said.

Levinson graduated in 1977 with a degree in economics and was a senior executive with Charles Schwab before becoming E-Trade's president and COO in 1996. Still, she is modest about her success; the only hint of her background on Monday was the E-Trade logo on the grey tank top she wore for her match.

She left corporate life in 2000 and founded the Lesbian Equity Foundation, which advocates for the rights of LGBT people, Jews and women. Now she works as an executive coach and mentor to female entrepreneurs while also raising two daughters, Reade, 16, and Parker, 13.

Levinson credits her athletic background with teaching her valuable skills for the business world, including competition and teamwork.

"As a leader of a company, I think those skills have really served me well," Levinson said.

When she needs a good workout, she heads to the YMCA for a racquetball game, but admits she often has a hard time finding other skilled women players.

One of her local hitting partners is Merijean Kelley, who is competing in the 60+ division in racquetball for the Senior Games and helped organize the matches at the YMCA. Kelley cheered Levinson on Monday afternoon after winning her first two matches earlier in the day.

"It's a congenial, competitive, enjoyable experience," Kelley said.

Levinson was hesitant to play in the Games after her knee injury, but her daughters urged her to stay in it. She's glad she did.

"I was nervous about just embarrassing myself. I feel like at least I didn't do that," she said while sitting in the YMCA lobby after Monday's match.

"You didn't," Kelley assured her. "You played very well."

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