Title IX at 39: Ensuring Equality for Women in Sports & Education

By Jenna Chai, a summer intern

Today marks the 39th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments, the federal statute prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded schools. This anniversary not only serves as a day to commemorate the decades-old legislation, but it also serves to remind us that women are, alas, still facing discrimination in education programs.

The National Women’s Law Center recently released a report indicating that many schools are forcing their women’s sports to bear the brunt of budget cuts as they face harsh economic times. In other words, women’s sports are expected to take the fall when the going gets tough… I guess some schools just don’t quite understand the whole “equal opportunity” idea that Title IX warrants.

Title IX was implemented in 1972 to ensure equal opportunity in education programs and extracurricular activities in federally funded schools. While the law did not originally make any reference to athletics, it has significantly increased female participation in sports and established rules that schools must comply with in order to continue receiving federal funds.

Despite all the progress we have made since the enactment of Title IX, great gender disparities still exist. Currently, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is set to investigate over 100 complaints of gender discrimination, which the department says is the most they have ever faced at once.

Clearly, there is considerable room for improvement in our schools’ ability to comply with Title IX. One of the things we can do to aid in creating nondiscriminatory athletic programs is to clear up widely held misconceptions.

Some examples of misconceptions people hold regarding Title IX:
• Myth: Title IX calls for schools to slash men’s sports
Fact: Title IX does not require schools to cut men’s sports in any way – many schools have added women’s teams without eliminating men’s teams
• Myth: Title IX requires quotas
Fact: Title IX does not call for quotas
• Myth: Women are not as interested in sports as men are
Fact: After Title IX was enacted, women’s participation in sports increased significantly – women were more able to express their interest after they had the opportunity

Check out the National Women’s Law Center for a more comprehensive list of myths and analyses.

Update: Correction made on 6/27/11