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American female athletes dazzling the world with their Olympic performances last summer in Atlanta became a symbol of success for a piece of federal legislation.

Suddenly Title IX didn't seem as onerous and burdensome as its critics contend.

The legislation that forced schools and colleges to level their playing fields and open gymnasiums and tracks to girls was credited with creating a generation of spectacular women athletes.

Another piece of governmental social engineering, framed in the same era as Title IX, is not garnering as much praise. Affirmative action in the workplace has been as beneficial to women as Title IX, but its success cannot be measured in such a sudden and dramatic way.

Just as today's high school basketball star may not know that it took an act of Congress for her team to exist, her coach to be hired and her uniforms purchased, the newly appointed department manager at IBM is not likely to associate her promotion with government policy. But advocates of Title IX and affirmative action know there is a connection.

The Title IX link is easier to find. In 1972, when its language was added to the Education Amendments Act, one in 27 girls was a high school athlete compared to today's one in three; collegiate athletic scholarships for women were unheard of and no school offered the full range of athletic programs for girls that they do today.

Title IX is a part of affirmative action that is likely to survive the challenges that it has gone too far or is no longer needed. But programs promoting the advancement of women in the workplace are endangered.

In the past 15 years, the percentage of women holding executive, administrative and managerial jobs increased from 32.4 percent to 42 percent. Today's women-owned businesses, many dependent on preferences in federal contract bidding, employ more people than all the Fortune 500 companies combined and make up over 35 percent of all small businesses in the country.

Despite a critical mass of women in some businesses and professions, not many are making it to the top and that's one reason why women's organizations have taken on the fight to save affirmative action.

There also is a need to keep the pipeline filled for the day when the barriers to promotion will crumble.
There's not much evidence of affirmative action in Buffalo and Western New York where women are underrepresented on the forums that are shaping the area's future.

Considering that women make up roughly half of this area's population and by all estimates will dominate its workforce in the next century, it is not good public policy to have only men designing the schools and workplaces of the future.

The Erie County Commission on the Status of Women has been agitating for the appointment of women to public sector boards for close to a decade, but its success has not been overwhelming. The most recent omission: There is one woman on the seven-member joint steering committee which is overseeing the merger of Buffalo General, Children's and Millard Fillmore hospitals.

There were no women on the 10-member committee charged with interviewing candidates for the position of chief executive officer of the mega-medical center. "Where is the woman's voice?" asks a reader.

Women comprise the majority of hospital personnel and are heavy users of health care. Is it extreme to suggest they should have a say in the way these services are delivered?
Pro-Choice Network has endorsed 13 candidates in next month's election. Patricia McGee, a candidate for the Assembly in the 149th District, is the only Republican favored.

Democrats endorsed in assembly races are Susan V. John, 131; David R. Koon, 135; Susan Y. Peimer, 142 and Sam Hoyt, 144. In races for the state Senate, the pro-choice candidates are Richard Dolinger, 54; Mary E. Callan, 55; Patricia O. Ulkins, 56; Anthony Nanula, 57, William P. Roach, 59; Biran M. Walczak, 60.

The network also endorsed Lynn Marinelli for Erie County legislature in the 11th District and Susan J. Grelick for Amherst Town supervisor. The organization is prohibited by law from endorsing candidates in federal election.

A complete list of candidates and their voting records is published in the network's current newsletter.

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