This Week in Civil Rights History: Title IX Becomes Law

Categories: News, Women's Rights


This week we commemorate the 37th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which banned gender discrimination from all education programs and extracurricular activities in federally funded schools.


While the law did not originally make any reference to athletics, it is famous for altering schools’ athletic policies to increase female participation in sports and establish gender equality in athletic budgets and competitions. Before the law passed in 1972, girls made up only 7 percent of high school sports participants. Now, more than 40 percent of high school athletes are female, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations.


Title IX has also dramatically improved educational opportunities for women and increased their participation in higher education. Before the law passed, 42 percent of college students were women.  During the 2003-2004 school year, women composed 57 percent of the students in universities and colleges. It also has become easier for women to assume higher-skilled positions in their occupational fields, such as corporate executives, politicians, and college presidents.  


Despite Title IX’s advances to curtail gender discrimination in educational and athletic programs, there are still gender disparities, particularly in the fields of mathematics, science, engineering, and technology. In 2003, women composed only 30 percent of the doctorate degrees in science and 9 percent in engineering. Additionally, very few women continue on to high-level faculty positions in these fields.


Since its enactment, Title IX has been frequently challenged in court , but two recent Supreme Court decisions have upheld and expanded Title IX’s reach. In 1992, Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, the Supreme Court ruled that students who are victims of sexual harassment and discrimination could be rewarded monetary damages.  And in 2005, the Court ruled in Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education that Title IX prevents schools from retaliating against individuals who protest gender discrimination, yet another step toward achieving gender equality.

Despite Title IX’s advances to curtail gender discrimination in educational and athletic programs, there are still gender disparities, particularly in the fields of mathematics, science, engineering, and technology. In 2003, women composed only 30 percent of the doctorate degrees in science and 9 percent in engineering. Additionally, very few women continue on to high-level faculty positions in these fields.


Since its enactment, Title IX has been frequently challenged in court , but two recent Supreme Court decisions have upheld and expanded Title IX’s reach. In 1992, Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, the Supreme Court ruled that students who are victims of sexual harassment and discrimination could be rewarded monetary damages.  And in 2005, the Court ruled in Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education that Title IX prevents schools from retaliating against individuals who protest gender discrimination, yet another step toward achieving gender equality.