Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Title IX


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

Once signed into law by US president Richard Nixon, the enactment of Title IX became part of the Educational Amendments of 1972. Its purpose is representation in educational and interscholastic activities that receive federal funding. However, Title IX is much more significant than that. 

In the 50 years that have followed, Title IX become extremely important regarding inclusivity for females in both education and athletics. According to a reflective Encyclopedia Britannica article on Title IX, the purpose of the Title IX amendment is that all Americans are entitled to the opportunity for participation in as well as the ability to enjoy the benefits of inclusivity and can freely do so without any threat of discrimination. 

The only caveat is that the program must be one that receives federal funding and must fall under either an educational or activity-based opportunity.

Because of the enactment of Title IX, people had the chance, regardless of gender, to pursue interests that were not previously possible. The US had evolved into starting to understand how impactful women and girls could be in society. They deserved the chance to show what they are capable of doing. 

However, it was not always easy to see the progress achieved by women in sports. According to the United States Department of Education, there is a three-part test that makes up Title IX and its compliance. 

These “prongs” include proportionality of male sports offerings and female sports offerings at the same institutions, a detailed history expansion related to participation opportunities concerning the under-represented population and considerable attempts to accommodate levels of interest in a particular opportunity. 

However, only one of these conditions must be met to be considered compliant. For example, UW-Platteville offers women’s golf to maintain proportionality in response to having a football team listed under men’s sports.

Despite the nuances of a system that has always presented some challenges for girls and women to be able to participate, it has developed great interest in sports from 1972 to now. 

According to the most recent information released in their fiftieth anniversary report from the Women’s Sports Foundation, several statistical findings are astounding across both high school and intercollegiate athletics. 

Participation has increased exponentially at the high school level in the last four decades going from 294,015 sports participants in 1972 up to 3,402,733 in the 2018-19 school year, the most recent figure in the report. 

From the beginning of Title IX when high school athletes who were women represented only 7% of total athletes, that number has ballooned to 43% today. The most recent findings at the collegiate level included 29,977 female athletes in the 1971-72 athletic season compared to 215,486 in the 2020-21, the most current information available. Finally, college teams have also seen a sharp increase in participation from 15% in 1972 to 44% at the time of this report.

However, the Women’s Sports Foundation also researched the shortcomings that are still present 50 years following the of Title IX. Inequities compared to men’s sports include how across  passage collegiate athletics, the number of opportunities provided to men is still greater while the resources allocated to women’s sports, as far as scholarships and recruiting and other forms of compensation, such as a coaching staff, continue to remain behind that of men’s sports. 

Another finding from the report is that as of 2020, only seven of the 50 states offered athletic opportunities for girls in high school sports proportional to high school enrollments. 

The three-prong system, despite all its success over the last five decades, does leave some flexibility concerning compliance with Title IX. Within this flexibility, there is room to grow.

One potential solution to continue bridging the gap between male sports and female sports participation and acceptance in the U.S. is to continue to promote and explain the benefits associated with educational extracurricular activities and athletic opportunities.

The benefits of Title IX is offered to all people in US sports and other activities, according to a blog post written by Nancy Hogshead Makar of the Aspen Institute. Participation in sports leads to increased educational retention, a better economy and a healthier population of people, because participants remain enthused and engaged in the lives that are leading. 

It is quite critical for the future of Title IX for these benefits to continue to expand and grow into other areas of life. These young women and girls will be role models for future generations of people who might leave a lasting impact on the U.S. just as Title IX has. 

Unfortunately, inadequate circumstances still exist, which women and girls must deal with. One such example is the number of basketball tournaments in the history of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA), according to the archives of both the boys and girls state tournament.

The Girls’ State Basketball tournament began in 1976 and the Boys’ State Basketball tournament began in 1916. The boys have been given the opportunity to participate in 60 additional tournaments compared to the girls. This underscores the fact that it will be very difficult to ever completely even-out sports that men have been able to participate in four decades more than women. However, people can always strive to improve.

It is important to recognize the adversity that women and girls have been able to overcome to participate in both academic and athletic programs throughout the last five decades. 

The opportunities available for everyone today would not be possible without the sacrifices of those people fighting for equality in the past. Although great progress has been made with respect to Title IX, the mission is not complete.

It will remain ongoing for a very long time and must continually adapt so that the opportunities of today, for all, can be better in the future.