Updated: Jul 19
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, a landmark United States law that changed the course of education and athletics for women and girls. However, two-thirds of Americans say that they know “not much” or “nothing at all” about the federal law banning discrimination on the basis of sex.
Prior to the passage of Title IX, women only comprised 10% of both medical and law school classrooms, and most applicants were rejected simply because they were women. Title IX was enacted to provide equal access to education for men and women. Title IX, although most known for its effect on education, has also had a profound effect on women’s athletics. Thanks to Title IX, 1 girl for every 3 boys (6-12) participates in sports but boys today still get 1.13 million more sports opportunities than girls do.
Title IX contains only 37 words, however, these words are often referred to as “37 words that changed America.”
“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.”
These 37 words were signed by President Richard M. Nixon on June 23, 1972, that were intended to equalize college admissions, and historically made way for the inclusion of women in youth and college sports.
Because of Title IX, today more than 3 million high school girls have opportunities to participate in sports. Women, currently make up 44% of all college athletics, prior to the passage of Title IX, women only comprised 15%. Before Title IX was enacted, the NCAA did not offer scholarships to female athletes and did not host championships for women’s sports. Although “sports” is not one of the 37 words, under this law, high school and college programs, under this law must provide equal treatment and opportunities to women’s and men’s athletic programs.
The foundations of Title IX are attributed to Representative Patsy T. Mink who was the first woman of color elected to the United States House of Representatives and the primary sponsor of Title IX. Alongside Mink, other politicians and activists included Representative Edith Green, Dr. Bernice Sandler, and living legend Billie Jean King. Billie Jean King has previously stated: “Title IX remains the only law that grants women any kind of equality in America.”
Title IX impacted access to education, employment, math, science, testing, technology and so much more. The profound impact of Title IX is something that women and girls, myself included, may take for granted today. Sports, in recent history, have been seen as a catalyst for gender equity. There are countless life lessons to be learned from sports that include leadership skills and working as a part of a team. Perhaps some of these skills obtained from sports are evidenced by 94% percent of female C-Suite Executives played sports growing up and nearly half of these women also competed in college sports. This involvement in sports would not be possible without Title IX.
Tremendous progress has been made for women and girls over the past 50 years. However, a tremendous amount of work needs to be done to continue to level the playing field. One of the greatest issues in sports today is the discriminatory policies that trans athletes face, as states have continued to pass legislation prohibiting transgender girls and women from participating in women’s athletics. The era of viewing women and women’s sports as lesser than men and men’s sports is put simply–outdated. The future of women’s equity in education and athletics remains in the hands of continual efforts of both women and men.
Hannah Valente, News Coordinator at Conduct Detrimental, is a 3L at Elon University School of Law and host of Podcast “Bars to the Bar” from Hoboken, New Jersey. Hannah graduated from Providence College where she was a four-year manager for the Men’s Basketball Team. She can be found on Twitter @hannahvalente13. She is a newly licensed NBA, WNBA, and Fiba Player Agent.