By Ken Reed
The beginnings of what might be the greatest women’s soccer team of all-time can be traced back to June 23, 1972 when Title IX became the law of the land.
Title IX is a public policy initiative that was driven by Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana and Congresswoman Patsy Mink of Hawaii. It was designed to prohibit high schools and colleges that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of gender — in any program or activity, including sports.
When Title IX became law in 1972, less than 700 girls played high school soccer in the United States. In 2018, there were 390,482 girls playing soccer across the USA.
Given those numbers, it’s hard to imagine the United States winning the women’s World Cup this past weekend without Title IX.
The growth in sports participation by girls goes well beyond the soccer pitch, however. Only one in 27 high school girls played sports of any kind in 1972. Today, more than 3 million high school girls — one in two — play high school sports.
That said, the positive ramifications of Title IX stretch way past our sporting playing fields. In 1972, fewer than 10 percent of all medical and law degrees went to women. Today more than 50 percent of all bachelor’s and grad degrees are earned by women. A survey conducted by Ernst & Young and espnW revealed that of businesswomen now in the C-suite (CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, etc.), 94% played sports and 52% played college sports.
“Had (Title IX) not passed, the options and opportunities for women in this country and the world would be vastly different,” states recently retired North Carolina State athletic director, Debbie Yow.
Title IX has been a tremendous opportunity creator for girls and women across all aspects of society.
“The passage of Title IX 45 years ago changed the trajectory of American women, thus transforming our culture,” said Donna de Varona, Olympic gold medalist and Title IX advocate.
“We found our way into space, onto the Supreme Court and into the high echelons of politics. In the sporting arena, we became a visible affirmation of what is possible, offering up strong, confident role models for future generations.”
Title IX was a good public policy intervention — not only for girls and women, but for the country as a whole.
“The benefits will be in what happens after the playing days are over, namely more women in leadership positions in our society,” said Big East commissioner and former WNBA president Val Ackerman. “The pathways for women will keep easing because sports can pave the way.”
The United States is a better and stronger country because of Title IX.
Oh, and yes, we are also World Cup champions because of that landmark legislation.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
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Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
A League of Fans Special Report