Title IX turns 45 this year, and its successful impact is felt by people across the nation. Let’s celebrate the fact that more women enroll in college today than ever before and that millions of girls and women participate in organized sports in schools across the country. Women athletes not only outnumbered men on the U.S. Olympic team at the 2016 summer games, they also brought home 61 of the team’s 121 medals. Yet among those 291 female athletes, only the soccer team had a female coach. For all our gains under Title IX, there are still inequalities to address.
Are we backsliding?
When Title IX was enacted in 1972, women were head coaches of more than 90 percent of women’s collegiate teams. Today, that number has decreased to about 40 percent. Currently, only 23 percent of all head coaches in the United States are female and only three percent of men’s teams are coached by women. Girls of color still do not receive equal chances to participate in sports as their peers. Plus, many women’s sports programs still receive less funding than men’s programs, and athletic departments spend a fraction of recruitment funding on female athletes. So what gives and what can be done?
Improve hiring practices
Young women, as well as young men, deserve female role models. Schools should seek to hire more qualified women in leadership and coaching positions, including athletic directors. Schools with female athletic directors statistically hire a higher percentage of women coaches, which can increase equal gender representation.
Continue the commitment
The American Association of University Women strongly supports Title IX and opposes any efforts that would weaken its effectiveness or undermine its enforcement. To ensure all students have an education free from sex discrimination, there must be a continued commitment by our government to enforce the law as well as one from schools to go above and beyond compliance. Citizens can deliver vital Department of Education resources to the person tasked with overseeing Title IX compliance at their local area schools, known as the Title IX coordinator, ensuring coordinators know the full scope and importance of their job.
Title IX also doesn’t stop on the sidelines — it extends into the classroom, where women still lack equal opportunity in STEM fields, and it protects students from sexual harassment and violence in schools. We’re making progress in gender equity, but there’s still work to be done before we truly have a level playing field.
Kimberly Churches, CEO, American Association of University Women, [email protected]