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Title IX & Women's Sports: Here's What You Need to Know

Titile IX The Next Gen

June 23, 2022, will mark a half-century since the Title IX of the Education Amendments Act was signed into law. Title IX is a landmark act that changed how genders are impacted in school and on sports teams.

Those born in the 21st century may not have first-hand experience with Title IX's impact on culture, media, and families. To the younger generations, playing soccer, lacrosse, or even hockey is the norm. However, girls and women who lived in a pre-Title IX era knew what it was like to be limited in terms of what sports they could play. At one point, women couldn't set foot on a field unless they were a part of the dance team. Throughout the latter part of the 20th century, television sports broadcasts remained male competitions, and the Boston Marathon believed women were not physically capable of running 26.2 miles. Take a look at how Title IX changed women’s athletics and education.

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, for short, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation) in any educational program or activity that receives federal funds, including extra-curricular activities. This law meant more opportunities for women to study subjects such as calculus, enter an ivy league school, gain tenure as a teacher, and even have the chance to play sports. In addition, the Act expanded upon what the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covered, such as;

Sexual Harassment and Violence Policies

  • Every school must respond promptly to address any sexual harassment or violence.
  • Every school must have a Title IX coordinator to ensure compliance with the Act.
  • Every school must have a policy and available ways to file a sex discrimination complaint. They must also make the policy and complaint form known to their students.

Athletic Expansion

  • Every school must demonstrate the expansion of athletic opportunities for the underrepresented gender.
  • Full men’s and women’s athletic programs, funding, facilities, and allowances are compared to assess if a school meets Title IX compliance.
    • With this comparison, a school cannot use funding as an excuse for non-equal treatment. This made headlines when women showcased varying differences between practice courts and weight rooms in the 2021 NCAA Men and Women’s Basketball March Madness Tournaments (see player Sedona Prince's video below).

Battle of the Sexes

Despite Title IX being passed in 1972, women still were faced with the challenge of proving to the world they were not the weaker sex. It took one Californian to start to shatter the glass. Tennis player, Billie Jean King played Hall of Famer, Bobby Riggs, in front of 50 million Americans in the first televised "Battle of the Sexes." The first female to officially run the Boston Marathon, Katherine Switzer, helped lobby to make Boston accept females into the field in 1972. The Marathon required women to meet the men's qualifying requirements. Switzer and Nina Kuscslk would place in the top three that year, further deeming the law a success.

Title IX required any educational institution receiving federal funding to have a Title IX coordinator position whose job was to oversee compliance of the Act. Despite the new changes made, much resistance still remained around opening up more courses, clubs, and sports to women, the Act did not come into full compliance until 1978. TIME reported that by 1978, six times the number of girls competing in high school sports than in 1970.

Did You Know? Before Title IX, only 1% of college athletic budgets went to women's sports programs.

Growing the Game

The trickle effect on each generation unfolded as women's sports participation grew. By 1979, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had included the right of women to participate in sports in an international convention for the first time.

After 1991, any new sport that wanted to participate in the Olympics needed to have a women's competition—reinforcing equality for all allowed for the opportunity for women's softball, soccer, and so many more sports to make their grand debut.

By the 1996 Olympic Games, the world saw many female athletes born after Title IX was enacted, now reigning in the triple crown of sports—basketball, soccer, and softball. While this is still below the goals the IOC set, women's sports participation continues to grow. At the 2016 Rio Games, over 45% of participants were women.

According to the New York Times, over 3 million girls are participating in high school sports, and 200,000 in college sports. The IOC also noted that 4,500 women (49%) participated in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. There is still work being done to reach full equality for future generations.

This year, the United Soccer League (USL) just announced a professional path and Super League for women. U.S. Women's Soccer just announced equal pay for women in sport this past month. In addition, women are embarking on careers in male-dominated sports, such as Denver Broncos behavioral health specialist Dr. Nicole Linen. To push the envelope of equality even further, the IOC joined the U.N. Women Sports for Generation Equality Initiative. Joining this organization will accelerate progress and align key objectives around making gender equality a reality in sports. These efforts continue to help make gender equality more than just a dream.

Notable Title IX Women to Know

While many are advocates for women's sports, here are a few standouts to which you should show your support as women's sports participation continues to grow.

1. Billie Jean King

The "Battle of the Sexes" Tennis star became a women's rights advocate who testified on behalf of Title IX on the importance of the law and how it would help girls and women advance in their sport. Read more of King's story here

2. Mickie DeMoss

This trailblazer helped create the first women's college basketball team at Louisiana Tech, covered in the first episode of On Her Turf's In Her Court podcast. Tune into the podcast 

3. Margaret Dunkle

Margaret was critical in enforcing Title IX in schools across the country. She ensured schools, colleges, and universities met the new Title IX statutory requirement. Read Margaret's story

Continue the celebration with us! As women and girls continue to push the envelope in Women’s sports, show your support by attending a women’s game, following a women’s team on social, or joining in on the conversation—follow #TitleIX.

Discover more about Title IX and stories about women changing the game here  


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