Title IX Turns 40
This week marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX – a law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in educational programs. Title IX prevented women from being denied opportunities in the classroom or on the field, and the law is credited with opening a window for female athletes. While Title IX is most well known for putting athletes of both genders on an equal playing field, its original goal was math and science equivalency between girls and boys. In both of these areas and others, we’ve seen drastic improvements since the law’s implementation.
The successes of Title IX have benefited our society in ways that surpass abstract notions of equality. Since 1972, there has been a 40% increase in employment for 25- to-34-year-old women. A recent study by Dr. Robert Kaestner, an economics professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that “the increase in girls’ athletic participation caused by Title IX was associated with a 7 percent lower risk of obesity 20 to 25 years later, when women were in their late 30s and early 40s.”
However, 40 years after the bill’s passage, there is still work to be done. Controversy remains over whether the existence of Title IX forces universities and high schools to eliminate sports programs for males when there is little interest in girls’ sports programs in order to keep the number of teams equal. A New York Times investigation in April 2011 found that a significant number of universities pad their rosters with non-athletes (some of whom are unaware that their names are being used) in an effort to comply with Title IX requirements.
The past 40 years have shown real improvement in equal opportunities for achievement, both on and off the field, but we must continue to be vigilant and ensure that all women and girls have equal access to educational opportunities.
Photo courtesy of Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo