Title IX Turns Forty

As Americans tune in to watch their nation’s best compete in the Olympic Games, it’s worth noting that many female athletes got a major boost in their sports endeavors because of legislation passed four decades ago. The law known as Title IX (Nine), which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012, has been instrumental in opening up opportunities in sports and other educational areas to girls and women.

Officially called the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, Title IX was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972. It states simply: “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.” Although the law does not specify sports, it is most often associated with the expansion of opportunities for female athletic programs—first in the nation’s high schools and then at the collegiate level. It has also encouraged the expansion of opportunities for girls and women in the fields collectively referred to as STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Although critics of Title IX claim that it favors girls and women at the expense of boys and men, the law is designed to be “gender neutral.”

Both men’s and women’s sports programs have grown since the passage of Title IX. According to the NCAA, the number of female college student athletes increased by 32,662 in the decade ending in 2011, to a total of 191,131. And from the early 1980s to the present, the number of women’s athletic teams has more than doubled. Women in college athletics have a graduation rate of about 89 percent, which indicates the student side of student-athlete is by no means being neglected.

Image credit: Mark Andersen/Rubberball/Corbis

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  1. bill says:


  2. chad says:


  3. charles says:

    I think the presedent was right. women deserve to play in sports.