Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a portion of the Equal Opportunity Act which was added to the U.S. Constitution on June 23, 1972. The policy states (in part) that “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.”
The law is one of the most important civil rights successes in American education because it opened the door for young women to be included in the same activities as men. Other than the constitutional right to vote, no other piece of legislation has had a greater impact on the lives of women.
Although the legislation doesn’t mention sports directly, statistics show that before Title IX was implemented in 1972, fewer than 30,000 female students participated in recreational programs compared to more than 3.6 million males.
Today, that number has grown to more than 3.1 million young women and 4.5 million young men participating in sports at the high school level. Studies also have repeatedly shown participation in athletics broadens the scope of education for everyone. Women athletes are more likely to graduate from high school and college than female students who don’t play sports. Female athletes are less likely to use drugs, get pregnant as teenagers, or become obese. One recent study of Title IX by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that up to 40 percent of the overall rise in employment among women in the 25 to 34-year-old age group was attributable to Title IX.
The results of Title IX are remarkable and will be studied for years. The educational opportunities that women have here in America should be duplicated worldwide. The president has stated that Title IX has the potential to make similar, striking advances to ensure that schools make available a rigorous curriculum that prepares all students – regardless of gender – for both college and career, including access to science, technology, engineering and math curricula (STEM). Hopefully, in another 40 years we will be celebrating statistics showing more female scientists, researchers and mathematicians, and men and women will enjoy equal wages for equal work. We have a long way to go, but thanks to Title IX, we know we are on the right path.
This is an op-ed by State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal.