IIn 1972, U.S. legislators passed a seemingly simple law—widely known as Title IX—against sex discrimination in education: “No person in the United States shall be excluded, on the grounds of sex, from participation in, or denied the advantages or be discriminated against as part of any educational program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.”
The fiftieth anniversary, officially on June 23, is celebrated in countless documentaries and news stories for their implications for promoting gender equality in sport, especially at the college level. In fact, it’s so embedded in American culture that a women’s sportswear company has dubbed itself the Title Nine, using sales pitches like “Busy Boobs Need Better Bras.”
Title IX’s effects are certainly far from limited to sports. It’s the transition law that governs sexual harassment on campus, though details vary depending on who’s in the White House. And the law not only nullified the gender balance in colleges, but completely upended it, from about a 3-2 male-female ratio in 1970 to the other way around today.
A similar story happens in international sports. In last year’s Tokyo Olympics, American women won 66 medals, while men won 41. (Six others came from open or mixed events.) This was the largest gender gap to date, and was an extension of prehistoric trends. two decades.
College and school sports within Title IX do not always play a direct role in Olympic success. Women gymnasts tend to compete in college after, after their Olympic positions, if any. The NCAA does not sponsor competition in many of the sports in which American women have won medals in Tokyo, and college equestrian events are only a distant cousin to the Olympic program. But athletes like Katie Zafris, a former Syracuse long-distance runner turned triathlete, and Sarah Robles, who gave up a shot put career to pursue weightlifting, have taken only a small turn from their school sports to their Olympic sports.
Overall, the emergence of women’s college sports and the subsequent international success in football and basketball has broadened the scope of what female mathematics can achieve. Previous generations had fewer opportunities, generally taking just a temporary bow on the world stage to celebrate medals in gymnastics, swimming, track and field, and figure skating—another sport for which there is no NCAA competition.
But American colleges and high schools, not the Olympiad, are where Subject IX has had the most direct impact. From 1982 to 2020, before the number of student athletes declined slightly due to the COVID pandemic, the number of women in NCAA college sports increased from 64,390 (28% of student athletes) to 221,212 (44%). High school sports data shows a similar story. In 1972, the year Title IX was introduced, only 294,015 of the approximately 4 million athletes enrolled in high school (about 7%) were female. In 2019, the numbers were 4,534,758 boys and 3,402,733 girls, a ratio of 57-43.
This, of course, is not a 50-50 split between male and female athletes. And his remaining progress could be controversial, particularly in college.
The first problem is how to determine if a school is in compliance with the Ninth Law. To be compliant, a school must meet one part of the frequently cited “three-pronged test”:
Does the school “fully and effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of the underrepresented gender”? This notch is a bit old, though efforts have been made to clarify it. Colleges, even those that do not offer scholarships, recruit athletes. Students generally do not appear on campus and express interest and demonstrate competence in a sport that is not already present in the school. In high schools, “interests” and “abilities” are difficult to measure because many sports are, by nature, exclusionary. How many reasonably qualified boys or girls have not been on the soccer or basketball teams?
* What is the school’s history of building opportunities for “the underrepresented sex” (in all but the rare cases, women)? This is also difficult to quantify. Is there a point where the school can “maximize”, or should it continue to research sports to add to women? Over the past two decades, schools have sought to keep up with this by adding large women’s teams in sports such as rowing, usually without a synchronized men’s team.
Do sports participation figures reflect school enrollment rates? In other words, if a school is 60% female (as is the case for many), are 60% of the school’s athletes also female? The advocacy group ChampionWomen produced a database just before the pandemic that showed few schools were in compliance — and many would have to go through tough contortions to meet the standard.
The irony is that colleges with the most women are the least likely to comply with participation numbers. The only schools that did well in the ChampionWomen study were those few schools with significantly more men than women. In other words, the colleges that succeeded in meeting the ninth chapter intent to increase educational Opportunities for women may be penalized by the more stringently imposed consequence of increasing Athlete Opportunities are either by adding a women’s-only sport or cutting the football team.
Another complicated aspect going forward is that the idea of assimilating massive college sports into college culture is called into question. A 2015 study by The Drake Group found that 98% of NCAA sports programs are subsidized by student fees, which isn’t always appropriate for an age of student debt anxiety. Also, the Operation Varsity Blues scandal has found several embarrassing cases of parents visiting their daughters’ sports resumes, even including some creative photo editing, to get admitted to elite colleges that accept only a small percentage of applicants but brandish athletes specific – often from wealthy families who The best coaches can carry – through the gates.
Finally, the NCAA will have to take into account the impact of Name, Image, and Similarity (NIL) opportunities that give student-athletes a chance to earn money. As expected, the lion’s share of that money went to football and basketball players, although women’s basketball players and some gymnasts did well. How will the NCAA and control groups handle these opportunities in Title IX assessments?
No matter what happens in the future, the impact of Title IX is permanent and almost impossible to overstate. Many women are athletes. Many athletes are women. And for the generations that have grown up since the Ninth Law became law, that was simply the case and it surely would remain so.