On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX barring discrimination on the basis of sex for “any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Title IX opened doors for girls and women by banning sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports.
Forty-five years later, how have things changed? To begin with, the number of girls who participate in high school athletics has risen tenfold since its passing, from 300,000 nationwide in 1971 to over 3 million today. That’s encouraging because research shows that among C-level business women, 94 percent played sports and over half competed at the collegiate level.
The good news continues in a recent report released by the NCAA suggesting that progress has been made in a number of areas when it comes to participation, diversity, and equality among college athletes, their coaches and their athletic directors.
Unfortunately, the report also reveals that while spending has climbed to record levels for both genders there remains a stark gap in leadership between the sexes – and it’s not just in the sports world. Whether it’s education, corporate America, or Congress, women are sorely underrepresented in leadership roles. Women are CEOs of just 28 companies in the S&P 500. Only 31 percent of law school deans are women. Women make up approximately 51 percent of the American population, and there are 435 members of our House of Representatives. Eighty-three are women. That’s just 18 percent. And in sports, 88 percent of head coaches of women’s college teams are white, and nearly 57 percent of them are men. Those numbers are simply unacceptable.
The reports goes on to show that spending on men’s and women’s athletic programs is at a record-high, and that over the past decade spending has doubled across all three NCAA divisions with the greatest gap between the two found in Division I. Division I athletic departments spend on average about twice as much on their men’s programs than their women’s programs, though schools without football spend nearly the same on each (about $5 million).
Title IX has undoubtedly moved women in sports in a positive direction. Why is this so important? Because young women who are involved in sports are learning about teamwork, sportsmanship, physical fitness, confidence and winning and losing – all the important qualities needed to become a strong and successful leader. Boys have always been afforded this luxury but for most of the 20th-century, girls have not.
I am thankful for what Title IX has afforded me and my daughter and look forward to where it takes us in the future.