Despite the progress made with Title IX, thousands of schools across the country are not in compliance with the gender-equity law. Young women and girls continue to experience the effects of gender discrimination on their education.
SATURDAY marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program receiving federal funding.
Today is a time to celebrate how much this civil-rights law has done for young women and girls and men and boys — and roll up our sleeves for the work that remains to eliminate barriers to educational equity.
Title IX is gender-neutral, but it has had an undeniable and tremendous impact on female participation in high-school and college sports. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, since the passage of Title IX in 1972, women’s and girls’ participation in sports has increased by 545 percent at the college level and by 979 percent at the high-school level.
In Washington alone, 68,518 high-school girls participated in school sports this past year.
To help achieve gender equity in athletics, the Washington Legislature authorized tuition waivers that increase the resources available for women’s athletics. Through the waivers, the state’s institutions of higher education have made important strides in promoting young women’s athletic opportunities.
There is more to do. Under Title IX, while participation rates of white girls and women have soared, they have been significantly lower for black, Asian, Pacific Islander and Hispanic athletes.
Though Title IX is best known for athletics, its reach is far broader, with positive impacts on advancing opportunities for girls and women in many arenas beyond sports.
For example, Title IX is increasing girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, frequently referred to as STEM. More high-school girls have been taking Advanced Placement tests in calculus and physics, and more women are receiving advanced degrees in STEM fields.
Huge increases also have taken place for women in law, medicine and other traditionally male fields. And men now have higher representation in traditionally female fields, such as in nursing and teaching.
Title IX has helped schools address harassment, bullying and sexual violence in schools, requiring schools to take reasonable corrective action to stop the harassment and prevent its recurrence once they have knowledge that it is occurring.
Each year, countless women drop out, transfer or otherwise interrupt their education in the aftermath of sexual violence, including rape. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the agency responsible for enforcement of Title IX, has now made clear that sexual harassment and assault are forms of gender discrimination. Title IX requires that schools provide a “prompt and equitable” resolution of sexual-harassment and violence complaints.
Despite the progress made with Title IX, 40 years later, thousands of schools across the country are not in compliance with the law. Young women and girls continue to experience the effects of gender discrimination on their education.
While we celebrate the advances Title IX has brought over 40 years, we hope the next 40 years will be committed to tackling and overcoming those challenges that remain. Then, perhaps, we will have achieved Title IX’s goal of gender equity in education.
Chris Gregoire is the governor of Washington state. Jeanne Kohl-Welles is a state senator representing part of Seattle, including Ballard, Queen Anne and Fremont.