Closing the Gender Gap

On June 23, 1972, 38 years ago today, the landmark Title IX law was signed into law. An amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX was designed to reverse decades of discrimination in education by requiring gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.

The law states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Many people believe Title IX applies only to sports, because it is in that area where the law’s impact has been felt the most. Athletics, however, is only one of 10 key areas addressed by the law, which include access to higher education, learning environment, and math and science.

Like most historical laws designed to reverse decades of discrimination, progress made possible by Title IX has been overshadowed by the many areas for improvement. Title IX has subject to countless proposed amendments, reviews, Supreme Court cases and other political actions – necessary because thousands of schools are not in compliance with the law.

Gender discrimination, especially in the fields of math and science, remains a major problem in the nation’s schools. While it is true, for example, that more girls are taking science and math courses, it also true that boys still dominate physics, calculus, and other more advanced courses.

Furthermore, according to the National Women’s Law Center, despite some gains at the secondary school level, girls participation rates in math and science decline after high school – hampered by stubborn stereotypes and lack of media role models. The end result is that girls are less likely to pursue technology-related careers, a traditionally male-dominated field and one that attracts significant earning power.

In 2009, President Obama vowed to vigorously support Title IX and enforce its requirements to strengthen the position of women and girls in math and science.

The National Education Association has long supported equal opportunities in mathematics and science education.  Improving access to these critical fields, says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, is essential to the nation’s economic  future.

“Our prosperity is tied to innovation spurred by all students’ engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” says Van Roekel. “Education is not a zero-sum game. High achievement by one group of students shouldn’t come at the expense of another group.”

Additional Resources:

NEA – Making Public Schools Great for Every Boy and Girl

Title IX blog

National Women’s Law Center