Saturday, June 23, 2012

Title IX 40th Anniversary

"While the impact of this amendment would be far-reaching, it is not a panacea. It is, however, an important first step in the effort to provide for the women of America something that is rightfully theirs—an equal chance to attend the schools of their choice, to develop the skills they want, and to apply those skills with the knowledge that they will have a fair chance to secure the jobs of their choice with equal pay for equal work."

Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN), February 28, 1972 Senate floor remarks during the introduction of Title IX

Today is the 40th anniversary of a groundbreaking piece of legislation that opened doors for American women in education and most visibly in sports.  It is the Patsy T. Mink Equality in Education Act, better known as Title XI and it passed Congress and became law 40 years ago today..

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   

In the second decade of the 21st century we take it for granted women getting advanced degrees, but in 1972 women only received 9% of all medical degrees earned nationwide, 7% of all law degrees and 25% of all doctoral ones. Title IX was designed to change that.

And it did. By 1994 those numbers exponentially increased to the point that American women received 38% of medical degrees, 43% of law degrees and 44% of all doctoral degrees earned at US collges and universities.
But it also had a profound effect on womens sports as we know by the WNBA now being in its 16th year of operation, the women's NCAA tournament getting the love that the guys do (at least from President Obama and ESPN), some of the pre-Olympic sporting spotlight being focused on female athletes and young girls growing up to compete in whatever sport they desire just as their male counterparts do.

Before Title IX, fewer than 300,000 high school girls played sports and there were less than 32,000 female athletes at the collegiate level. By 1974, just two years after the passage of Title IX, the number of high-schoolers participating in sports had skyrocketed to 1.3 million.

By the time I entered high school in 1977, HISD high school sports programs for girls such as basketball, track and volleyball were not only established down to the junior high school level, but starting to get some of the media attention the guys got.

Now there are more than 3 million high school girls who play sports and more that 191,000 females played NCAA sports in 2010-11. And unlike their mothers or grandmothers who often were limited to basketball, track and softball if they did get a chance to play, women now are participating in everything from squash to tennis, skiing, rugby to wrestling.  

Young boys post Title IX have grown up watching their mothers, sisters, female cousins, aunts and in some cases grandmothers competing in or coaching sporting events.  They don't have that distinction in their minds like my parents generation and some in mine did of male and female athletes.   

And yes, even the president's daughters are competing in sports with the proud POTUS and FLOTUS watching them do so.

“Title IX was the second-most important piece of civil rights legislation passed in this country,” said Debbie Yow, athletics director at N.C. State. “Had it not passed, the options and opportunities for women in this country and the world would be vastly different.”

Title IX changed life for American women not only in collegiate and professional sports, but there was a dramatic rise in the numbers of women who received college degrees post Title IX.  

Title IX was also the building block that set the stage for American women to enter corporate boardrooms, the media, politics, science, engineering and technology careers, be college professors,  become entrepreneurs, and even blast off into space  

Happy anniversary to Title IX, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that changed the lives of American women in my lifetime and made our country a better place for 51% per cent of the population.

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