Why is Title IX Important to Women?
One of the great achievements of the women’s movement was the enactment of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. 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 education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” While some people may think Title IX only applies to sports, athletics is only one of key areas addressed by the black letter of the law and its practical applications for women far exceed the four corners of the statute:
• Equal access to education: Until the 1970s, some colleges and universities refused to admit women. While this was legal before the enactment of Title IX, afterwards women could not be barred. In 1970 women earned only 14 percent of doctoral degrees, but accounted for one-half by 2007.
• Pregnant and parenting students: It was legal to expel pregnant students until the enactment of Title IX. The statute affords protection to both pregnant and parenting students.
• Shaped Women’s Lives: By guaranteeing female students equal access to athletics, Title IX resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of young women participating in sports. Researched published in February 2014 suggests that the impact of allowing girls to play sports may have extended far beyond the playing field. The research raises the possibility that the experience of athletic competition shaped women’s lives, steering, at least, some of them away from what was once more traditional institutions such as church and marriage. Since the passage of Title IX, the number of girls who compete in high school sports has grown steadily every year, from fewer than 300,000 in 1972 to over 3 million in 2011, a ten-fold increase. One of the biggest unintended consequences of Title IX is that women athletes can now expect that they will have access to sports. Girls and many women today have lived their entire lives in a post-Title IX world of opportunities, a huge difference from women just 30 or 40 years their senior.
• Protections: Students and employees have many different rights under Title IX, including the rights preventing gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and unlawful retaliation, which includes any type of adverse treatment in response to reporting unlawful discrimination or harassment.
Assistance for Individuals of Any Gender
It should be noted that although some individuals may believe that Title IX was intended only to provide protection on behalf of females, the statute actually protects any person from sex-based discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived sex, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Female, male, and gender non-conforming students, faculty, and staff are all protected from any sex-based discrimination, harassment or violence.