By Ken Reed

Title IX, the landmark civil rights legislation that bans discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program receiving federal financial assistance, recently celebrated its 40th birthday. A celebration was indeed in order given that millions more girls and women have been given the opportunity to participate in athletics than was the case before the law’s enactment.

Even if you don’t like sports there are reasons to be a Title IX advocate. Non sports-lover Bryce Covert pointed out in a recent article in The Nation that research by economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that “the post-Title IX generation of women enjoyed more education, employment and higher wages than their pre-Title IX forebears.

Arthur Bryant, executive director of the public interest law firm Public Justice, laid out the positives of athletics participation for females beautifully in an op-ed column for the Christian Science Monitor.

“Research shows that girls who play high school sports are 20 percent more likely to graduate and 20 percent more likely to attend college,” writes Bryant.

“Girls and women who participate in athletics have increased cardiovascular conditioning; are less likely to smoke; have a reduced risk of a wide variety of health problems, including estrogen-related cancers, obesity, dementia, depression, and suicide. On the flip side, they have increased emotional and psychological well-being, self-esteem, and self-reported quality of life,” he continued.

“When they gain that, the boys and men in their lives – and all of us – benefit, too.”

However, we can’t fully celebrate until all high schools and colleges in the country fully comply with Title IX.

As Bryant points out, “Title IX does not require schools to sponsor any particular sport (or sports at all). It just requires that, if schools are going to offer sports, they have to do two things. First, they have to offer males and females equal opportunities to participate. Second, they have to provide equal treatment to the males and females who are participating, including financial aid (where offered), facilities, equipment, scheduling, travel, recruiting, coaching, tutors, medical and training services, housing, dining, support services, and publicity. The problem is that, even now, after 40 years, very few schools are doing this.”

At the college level, females make up 57% of the student body, yet only 43% of the college athletes. And it’s not due to lack of interest. If the last 40 years have proven anything, it’s that if given the opportunities, girls and women will flock to sports.

Some Title IX antagonists say that women deserve fewer college sports opportunities (and dollars) because football makes a ton of money and women’s sports don’t. There are two things to consider with this argument. First, most FBS (formerly Division IA) football programs lose money. Second, even if football programs were huge profit centers, the law doesn’t allow universities to discriminate against women for the purpose of making money.

What we need are more school administrators, government officials, parents and coaches that are committed to ending gender discrimination in sports. In a lot of cases, it takes courage to do the right thing. Working for Title IX compliance is one of those cases.

However, if more of us follow the courageous Title IX trailblazers, the 50th anniversary of Title IX will truly be an occasion to party.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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