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Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s 40! Title IX!

Tomorrow, 23 June, marks the 4oth birthday of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.   The result of this legislation, which bans gender discrimination in every area of education?   Generating greater opportunities for girls and women to play competitive sports at all academic levels.

Since Title IX was passed, the number of girls who compete in high school sports has grown from fewer than 300,000 in 1972 to more than three million in 2011 – a ten-fold increase.  On the college and university level, athletic programs have undergone a six-fold increase in the number of women athletes over the past four decades.  And not just women have benefited, either: in the same period, the number of young boys and men playing sports has also increased, as more and more opportunities have opened up in all tiers of athletic competition.

Of course, we haven’t completely leveled the playing field with Title IX.  Men still dominate the sports world.  Girls and women are still dogged with unequal access, skimpy financial assistance and inappropriate treatment in many community facilities and educational institutions across the country.  There are still fewer chances for girls and women to take meaningful part in school sports when compared with their male classmates; women athletes do not receive an equal share of sports scholarship dollars.  These disparities and inequalities are especially glaring among underserved populations, including minorities and the disabled.  But it’s better.

Despite the lingering disparities, it must be pointed out, too, that one really important part of this equality-in-sports-options equation has been the greater availability of athletic scholarships for women.  This is a great boost for young women going on to higher education, allowing them a much broader range of college and university choices.  It is also well established that properly run competitive sports programs support academic and career success, improve personal skills and contribute to better long-term, lifelong health and fitness.

Tennis champ and civil rights leader Billie Jean King,  a sincere and passionate supporter of full and continued implementation of all Title IX’s benefits, remains one of the law’s most outspoken advocates.  She is a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and is committed to achieving gender equality in society and public policy.  More info on Miss King and Title IX can be found at www.fitness.gov.

Special thanks US Department of Health & Human Services press release, 21 June 2012.

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