Title IX Turns 40: Is it “Over the Hill”?

By: Maggie Fridinger,  Program and Policy Intern

National Council of Women’s Organizations

This week women’s rights advocates have a reason to party.  June 23, 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  Over the past four decades, Title IX has accomplished a lot in regard to women’s education, career training, and athletic participation.  While Title IX applies to many aspects of women’s advancement, most people still draw associations with it creating more opportunities for women in sports.

Even though Title IX turns 40, it is not quite “over the hill” in terms of eliminating disparities that still persist in opportunities for women in high school athletics.  In fact, the proverbial “playing field” in high school is still slanted in favor of men.  Girls only receive 41 percent of all athletic participation opportunities even though they comprise approximately half of the high school population.  The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) released a report last week that reviews Title IX’s accomplishments over the last 40 years – and the work still left to do.

To remedy the gap in athletic opportunity, Congress is considering a bipartisan, good-government bill known as the High School Athletics Accountability Act (H.R. 458), also referred to as the High School Data Transparency Act (S. 1269). This legislation would require schools receiving public funds to “make available information on equality in school athletic programs.”  Such information includes:

  • The number of male and female students attending the school
  • The school’s listing of teams that engage in athletic competitions, including the gender composition of the teams
  • Total expenditures for each team from school and non-school sources for travel, equipment, uniforms, facilities, trainers, and publicity
  • The total number of coaches, trainers, and medical personnel, as well as an indication of their sex, employment status, qualifications, and average salary
  • The total number of competitions and practices scheduled, each team’s annual total revenue, and whether teams participated in postseason competitions.

In a nutshell, school officials would be required to disclose the above data to the Department of Education and make it available to the general public.  This is an easy task as high school officials already collect this information!  The bill only mandates schools to publicize the data to guarantee preventive actions for continued and further compliance with Title IX.

The past two Thursdays, I had the opportunity to lobby on behalf of H.R. 458 and S. 1269 with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Action Fund’s Lobby Corps in both Republican and Democratic congressional offices.  In the brief conversations about the bill, the topic occasionally diverged to personal experiences.  It became evident that women’s participation in sports is a nonpartisan issue.  Whether a young woman is Republican or Democrat, the same benefits can be derived from having the opportunity to engage in athletic competition.  The 2012 NCWGE report underscores the improved health benefits, lifestyle choices and behavior, and academic performance of girls who participate in sports.

So now, I ask you: are you a woman reading this blog?  Did you participate in high school athletics?  Does your daughter or sister play a sport?  Do you believe that teamwork in high school builds a more confident leader later in life?  If so, and if you think that women deserve an equal opportunity to participate in high school athletics, give your representatives a call.  Let the staffer who answers the phone know that you would like to see your representative further commit to Title IX by cosponsoring H.R.458 or S.1269, and this is a good time.  As we celebrate Title IX’s birthday this week, the best gift you can send is a letter or a phone call.

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