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The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In an act of both solidarity and protest, the College of William & Mary women's track and field team is boycotting the season until the recently cut men's team is reinstated.

The state of play: W&M is hardly the first school to make pandemic-related cuts, but this time, the 26 women on the team took what they've learned at the school and used it to fight back.

The backdrop: W&M cut seven athletic programs in September — four men's, three women's. But after it was threatened with a Title IX lawsuit, it reinstated the women's gymnastics, swimming and volleyball teams.

  • Teams that remain cut: Men's gymnastics, swimming and both indoor and outdoor track & field.
  • Samantha Huge, the school's athletic director at the time, was ousted amid the backlash against both her decision and how it was communicated, which included plagiarism of Stanford's similar announcement back in July.
  • Worth noting: Men's cross country avoided the axe in part because they've won 20 straight conference championships.

Between the lines: Title IX promises equitable, not equal, treatment on the basis of sex. A school's athletic makeup needn't be a 50-50 split, but rather reflect the student population as a whole.

  • W&M is nearly 60% women, so Title IX compliance means the athletic department must look the same.
  • Women runners are thus particularly valuable, as one person can count for as many as three tallies (cross country, indoor and outdoor track). That means a single distance runner offsets three, say, football players.

What they're saying: When the women's teams were reinstated, interim AD Jeremy Martin made them feel like pawns, not athletes, distance runner Lauren Finikiotis tells Axios.

  • "He never said, 'We value your sport — what you can do in the pool, on the court, on the track.' He just said we need you here to be Title IX compliant."
  • "If you want us to be confident and go out into society and represent William & Mary, how am I supposed to do that if this school makes it clear I'm only here so that a man can play a sport?"
  • "Taking opportunities away from men to achieve gender equity is missing the point. If there's a compliance issue, they should give opportunities to women instead of taking them away from their male counterparts."

The bottom line: Finikiotis and her teammates love their school, so they're fighting for it to better represent how they've seen it all along.

  • "As William & Mary students," she said, "this is what we're encouraged to do; this is what we're taught to do." Seems like a job well done.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 28, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: The future of financial inclusion

On Thursday, January 28, Axios' Dan Primack hosted a conversation on financial inclusion in the global economy, featuring Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Institute for Women's Policy Research CEO C. Nicole Mason.

Sen. Tina Smith discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, uneven access to technology, and the role of systemic racism in growing economic inequities.

  • On what she thinks will be the most effective way to move the needle on financial equity: "Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour...is one of the biggest things that we can do to address the wage inequality and savings potential for people of color in this country."
  • On Democrats' economic goals going into the new administration: "Addressing this kind of discrimination in financial services and creating more opportunities for people of color to get access to banking services, loans, access to capital is a big priority for us as [Democrats] move into the majority."

C. Nicole Mason discussed how job losses during the pandemic reflect existing gender and racial inequities, as well as the disproportionate burden of childcare on women.

  • On the scale of job losses for women: "Since the start of the pandemic, women have exited the workforce at four times the rate of men, so about 11 million women since the start of the pandemic have lost their jobs or exited the workforce."
  • On childcare as an equity issue: "With the pandemic, the burden [of childcare] doubled and tripled...We need a national childcare infrastructure where we keep up childcare as a public good and people can access it regardless of their income or ability."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Europe, Visa Charlotte Hogg, who discussed digital and financial inclusion as a component of economic equity during the pandemic.

  • "We have to think about inclusion as being digitally, financially included. [From] small businesses who are increasingly important in driving towards a more inclusive recovery and who need to be digitally enabled to participate in that, [to] consumers who for various reasons may be vulnerable."

Thank you Visa for sponsoring this event.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jan 29, 2021 - Technology

Teen's book spotlights female leaders in tech, politics and more

Photo: Maya Sharma

Maya Sharma's debut book, on sale this week, features interviews with 25 women who charted their own course to success. It's a topic she knows a lot about — she can now call herself a published author before even graduating high school.

The big picture: Sharma, the 16-year-old daughter of prominent wireless industry consultant Chetan Sharma, said the women featured in "Paving: Conversations with Incredible Women Who are Shaping Our World" all have different stories but that she hopes young girls take away one key lesson: "She did it, and so can I."

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.