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Title IX Is 50 Years Old. Why Aren’t Schools Complying with the Law?

There are many reasons to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the positive impact it has had on women’s sports, and yet there are also plenty of ways the landmark legislation hasn’t yet met its full potential.

As we enter the next 50 years of Title IX, here are a few examples of how new policies and better enforcement of the law could lead to more equal playing fields across the United States.

Despite 50 years of Title IX, most schools aren’t in compliance with the law

The sports participation gender gap starts early, and it continues all the way through college.

According to a report from the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), just 60% of girls compete in high school sports compared to 75% of boys. In fact, girls today have fewer opportunities to participate in high school sports than boys did in 1972.

At the collegiate level, 86% of NCAA institutions aren’t offering opportunities proportional to their enrollment. While women account for nearly 60% of college students nationwide, they have just 43% of college sports opportunities. This has a significant economic impact, with women missing out on $252 million of athletic scholarships. Per year.

“There’s sort of this widespread acknowledgement, like, ‘Well, schools aren’t complying’ and, you know, we’re 50 years in. That’s not great,” says investigative journalist Rachel Axon, who worked on a USA Today series that examined how Title IX has fallen short.

At the University of North Carolina (UNC), for example, the athletic department would need to add nearly 400 women’s roster spots in order to reach proportionality with its student body enrollment. UNC told USA Today that it is in compliance with the law through “prong three” of Title IX, meaning it is meeting the interests and abilities of its female students.

“And we asked them… ‘What are your surveys telling you? Are you getting requests from club teams to be elevated?’ And they declined to answer our questions on that and just gave us a generic statement,” says Axon.

White women have disproportionately benefited from Title IX

Research from the Women’s Sports Foundation found that women of color are participating in sport at lower levels than white women.

At high schools where the majority of students are Black and/or Hispanic, girls receive 67% of the opportunities that are available to boys, according to WSF research. In comparison, at predominantly white high schools, girls have 82% of the opportunities that boys do. Women of color are also underrepresented in coaching and administrative positions, too.

The WSF recommended two policy changes to address these disparities: 1) that the Department of Education collect race-specific data on sports participation; and 2) that Congress pass the High School Data Transparency act, which would “require schools to publicly report information on the status of female and male athletes and students, broken down by race and ethnicity, as well as expenditures on each sponsored sports team.”

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