Since its passage on June 23, 1972, there have been repeated attacks on Title IX, the civil rights law that guarantees equal educational opportunities to women and girls. After eight years of Bush administration regulations limiting the impact and effectiveness of Title IX, there is now an opportunity to reinvigorate the law and once again prohibit sex discrimination in educational programs receiving federal funds.
Millions of women and girls have reaped the rewards of Title IX since it was launched 37 years ago with the active support of NOW. According to Women’s Sports Foundation, the number of women in school sports increased in 2001 to almost 2.8 million, a nearly ten-fold increase from 294,000 in 1972. Young girls can now watch their favorite women’s sports teams in the WNBA and see women’s soccer on television; there is a proliferation of sports magazines geared toward women; and new generations are being exposed to sports like never before. But the lack of equitable funding and repeated weakening of the law has set women and girls back, and there are many repairs to be done.
With a new administration in the White House, President Obama has an opportunity to restore the integrity of Title IX, both in athletics and in education, particularly with regard to single-sex school regulations that promote sex stereotyping and limit girls’ educational opportunities in public schools. The Department of Education must return to its responsibility to promote gender equity and enforcement of the law, and a good start would be to heed the call of the Coalition for Women’s Appointments to fill the job of Special Assistant for Gender Equity (SAGE). That position, which was created to “advise the Secretary and Deputy Secretary on all matters relating to gender equity” and “promote, coordinate, and evaluate gender equity programs, including the dissemination of information, technical assistance, and coordination of research activities” languished unfilled during the entire eight years of the Bush administration.