| By Josephine Campbell |
June 23 will mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the clause of the 1972 Education Amendments that made high school and college opportunities, including sports, available to women. While Title IX is known for its impact on athletics, that was not the lawmakers’ intent. Title IX was written in response to widespread inequality and sex discrimination in American higher education. An overview in Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints provides the details, including the law’s impact on athletics, interpretation regarding LGBTQ+ students, and what the law says about sexual harassment and assault in higher education. It also includes key events in the Title IX timeline.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”Title IX – Probation of Sex Discrimination – Gale In Context: U.S. History
The change brought about by three dozen words has resonated for girls and women in many areas. Thousands have received life-changing scholarships through athletics and earned degrees in medicine, law, and other fields previously closed or only grudgingly available to them. It has benefited pregnant and parenting students and faculty who previously could be dismissed or excluded without repercussions, and protected male and female students from harassment. Much younger students have also benefited because it applies to children from prekindergarten through postsecondary education. The law also protects students with disabilities by requiring academic institutions to accommodate them to ensure they have equal access to education and programs.
Once the legislation was passed, both lawmakers and college administrators were surprised to learn that it also applied to athletic programs. Imagine that—women playing college sports! According to Newsweek, at the time Title IX was signed, just 2 percent of college athletic budgets was allotted to female athletes. According to Education Week, only about 300,000 girls and women participated in high school and college sports in the early 1970s. But improvement wasn’t immediate. Many schools put off changes until 1988, when lawmakers amended and finalized the act. By 2019, 3.4 million women participated in high school athletics alone, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Title IX has had an impact on students and staff in academic institutions and beyond. In the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, women have made great strides thanks to expanded academic access. However, 50 years later, some women in engineering report they must fight to get equal lab time and feel unwelcome in some classrooms. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigates thousands of Title IX-related complaints every year. Gender nonconforming students have been only belatedly protected by the law. And women still earn less than 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer and information science—those numbers have remained virtually unchanged over the last two decades—according to the National Society of Professional Engineers.
The law also opened doors to trade school. This holds tremendous potential for future earnings. For several years, the United States has been facing a skilled trades labor shortage, according to PeopleReady Skilled Trades. A few years ago, I watched my son graduate from a trade program. More than a few young women crossed the stage to collect certifications in auto and diesel mechanics, carpentry, and law enforcement, but they were still far outnumbered by young men in these fields. In 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported just 4.5 percent of construction workers, 1.7 percent of electricians, and 2.3 percent of automotive mechanics were women.
Gale In Context: Elementary offers numerous opportunities to discuss equality and how things have changed. Students might want to learn about women of an earlier era, such as Elizabeth Blackwell, who was denied admission to multiple medical schools but persevered. Once she became a doctor, she opened doors for other women by launching a medical school for them. Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of only 9 women in her class of 500 at Harvard Law School in the 1950s and was rejected by multiple law firms because she was a woman. Students can learn about other discrimination she faced and how she persevered in her biography.
The effects of Title IX are evident in the sporting world. Gale In Context: Elementary has biographies of American track and field stars Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad and of gymnastics star Simone Biles, who competed in the Summer Olympic Games last year. Biles, whose struggles and triumphs during the Summer Games were closely watched, is a perennial favorite among children. Students may know the name Megan Rapinoe for her prowess on the soccer field but might not know about her work seeking equality for women’s soccer. Elementary offers two versions of each of these and other profiles for readers of varying abilities.
We’ve seen the effects of Title IX on the world stage as well as in our neighborhoods. Little boys and girls are out on fields, their little legs chugging as they try to catch up with soccer balls. They struggle mightily to hurl that basketball higher and higher, until they can make a basket. What a joy it is to sit on the sidelines chuckling as one’s child literally picks daisies in the outfield while a baseball bounces right by. That was my son. My daughter was the four-year-old lying on the ground in front of the soccer goal, staring at clouds. Good times. Today that girl is a science major and an air-quality intern with the state Department of Environmental Protection. Cloud gazing, it turns out, was a good investment of her time.