Forty years ago this week, Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in any federally funded education program, was signed into law. Many people think this groundbreaking law’s effects have been limited to equal access to athletics, but Title IX’s impact on the education system has been far and wide.
1.Equal access to higher education – Until the 1970s, some colleges and universities refused to admit women. Before Title IX, this was perfectly legal. Now, more women than men are enrolled in college, and more women are going into careers previously geared toward men in science and technology fields.
2. Career education – Were there boys in your high school home economics class? Girls in the shop class? That wouldn’t have been possible without Title IX. Before Title IX, many schools only allowed women to train for careers they found suitable for women – namely, housekeeping. Now, school administrators can’t legally dictate which students can take which classes based on gender.
3. Protection for pregnant and parenting students – Until Title IX, it was legal to expel pregnant students. Now, schools are allowed to create separate programs for student-parents, but the programs must be comparable to a normal school curriculum and enrollment must be voluntary.
4. Equal access to academia – Have you ever had a female professor? Before Title IX, she probably would’ve had to work at a women’s-only college, for less pay, and she might not have ever gotten tenure.
5. Changing gender stereotypes in the classroom – It was once widely accepted that boys were good at math and science, while girls were good at domestic activities. Textbooks showed girls as nurturing wives and mothers, while boys were shown as powerful and aggressive. Thanks in part to Title IX, gender stereotypes are now challenged in classrooms and in learning materials including textbooks.
6. Fighting sexual harassment – Under Title IX, schools have a legal obligation to prevent and address any reported sexual harassment. Administrators used to be able to dismiss claims of sexual harassment as trivial or simply as “boys being boys.”
7. Access to athletics – This is the most widely known impact of Title IX. According to the National Organization for Women (NOW), before Title IX, one in 27 girls played varsity high school sports. By 2001, one in every 2.5 girls played, meaning a total of 2.8 million girls played varsity sports.
8. Athletic scholarships for women – Before Title IX, athletic scholarships for women were virtually nonexistent because so few women were involved with sports. According to NOW, in 2003, there was more than $1 million in scholarships for women at Division I schools.
9. Increased self-confidence in girls – According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, women who are active in sports have more self confidence and are more outgoing than women who do not participate. These women never would’ve experienced these benefits if they weren’t allowed to participate in sports!