Title IX: Past and Present

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Throughout history the relationship between women in education has been tumultuous and largely unstable. Margaret Haley’s perception of education revealed contradictory viewpoints between teaching as a female profession and teaching as a mechanism for social movement. Teaching, according to her, was initially perceived as a way for social movement; however, it was only deemed possible within the confines of gender norms. The role that gender plays in education highlights the shifting relationship that women have with education. The shift away from gendered views in the progressive era and in modern times highlights education as the great equalizer for males and females. Similarly, the implementation of the Title IX Education Act in 1972 served as a mechanism for women in education to attain more freedom, rights, and opportunities. The purpose of the act was for women to be provided the same opportunity as their male counterparts and thus promote gender equality. The Act specifically states that “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” (NCAA, 2017). The act itself had no initial mention of athletics or sports; however, in today’s society it is commonplace to associate Title IX with athletics and more specifically women’s involvement with athletics. In this essay I aim to explore what the original goals for Title IX were and what were the intended and unintended outcomes?

Title IX is currently a living, breathing law, it is constantly changing to fit the needs of society and reforming to the call and beckon of women’s equality. Since Title IX was passed, it has been the subject of over 20 proposed amendments or political actions. The original intention of the law was to promote gender equality. According to Susan Ware (2007) the first Congressional hearings on the education and employment of women were in June and July of 1970, which later turned into the Title IX document. What it strived for was for the law to cover sex discrimination in federally funded or assisted programs, and for equal pay of female professionals. However, I argue that the implementation of the Title IX Act in 1972 served not only as a catalyst to promote gender equality in education, but also elevated athletic opportunities for women in today’s society.  

“Prior to Title IX, female students were denied equal opportunities under the law in academics; women applicants were routinely denied equal access to medical, law and other graduate disciplines; and women athletes were denied equal participation in sports.  Similarly, female faculty members were denied equal compensation and promotion” (Birch Bayh). While, the implementation of the policy had clear intentions of ensuring educational opportunity for women, somewhere down the line the shift changed to focus on extracurriculars outside of the classroom. The world of sports and athletics began to take shape, and thus, females in sports began to rise. Title IX is often associated today with having equal athletic opportunity rather than educational opportunity. The Act itself promoted and fought for gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that received federal funding. Women, according to the Act were allowed to have the same federal funding as men under the condition that their request had educational roots. At least on paper, women were finally being accepted and seen as equals to men. The implementation of Title IX allowed for more gender equity within the school system. One way in which the Act promoted gender equity was combating issues of discrimination in the university admissions process. Women, prior to the implementation of the Act, were often rejected from higher education opportunities on the basis of their gender (Mango, 1991). There were no previous legal ramifications for Universities which rejected applicants on the basis of their gender, a written legal rule provided women with legal basis in order to combat issues of sexism and discrimination in education. The initial goal was to provide women with the same federal funding as men, with this came the understanding that admissions processes largely favored male applicants over females. The implementation of the Act created legal parameters for women applying to universities needing federal funding or wanting funding later on in their academic careers. The Act also provided equal gendered opportunities while in schools especially in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM) (Walters, 2010). Women’s employment opportunities and employment stability were additionally protected under the Title IX Act. The Act also addressed issues of sex discrimination. While, the implementation of the policy had clear intentions of ensuring educational opportunity for women, somewhere down the line the shift changed to focus on extracurriculars outside of the classroom.

Athletics often times did not fall into the category of what was considered an “educational program.” In 1981, when two young women attempted to create a golf team using federal aid, the federal court in Michigan ruled that Title IX did not cover athletics as an educational program (Flygare, 1981). Nine years after the first implementation of the policy, on a state level, the majority of the population held the belief that athletics was not considered an educational program. Additionally, in the original language of the Title IX act athletics were not included under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) jurisdiction. Therefore, in 1977 discrimination in the realm of athletics and any grievances in athletics did not fall under the Title IX Act (Kuhn, 1976). If this original language had been passed the Act would have had clear intentions of applying to activities outside the classroom such as athletics rather than solely gender inequities within schools. Athletic programs were not, at the time, considered educational programs that were assisted under federal grant laws. An educational program is a program written by an institution which determines the learning process of each student. Athletics on the other hand can be seen as a recreational program because it can be argued that there is little knowledge gained to improve a student’s own learning process at an institution and at this time most athletic clubs were not federally funded. However, others argue that the knowledge gained from athletics often extends beyond what is learned in a classroom. When Title IX began to shift its focus on athletics it was argued that sports not only counted as a learning program, but also that women deserved to have the same rights as men within the sports world.  

Title IX first began to shift from a focus on education to a focus on women and athletics in 1979 when the three part test went into effect. The three part test was a tool used to determine if a proposed action fell under the qualifications for Title IX. In order to comply with the three part test of Title IX institutions must provide participation for men and women, athletic financial assistance, and ethical treatment of males and females.

According to the three part test, “the number of male and female athletes is substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments, the institution has a history and continuing practice of expanding participation opportunities responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex; and the institution is fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex” (US Department of Education, 2017).

This three part test expanded Title IX beyond just an “educational program” and allowed women to not only participate in athletics, but to participate with the same quality as their male counterparts. One such example of the prevalence of women in the sports realm post 1972 occurred when media coverage of women increased. While coverage of the women may have perpetuated female stereotypes, nonetheless it was still considered coverage, and it was still considered movement in the right direction for women’s equality. According to Kane (1998), “there was a significant increase in the proportion of coverage given to women in athletic roles.” In the same study they also found that there was more media covering women in “sex-appropriate” sports such as tennis versus “sex-inappropriate” sports like rugby. Essentially, there was in an increase in the quantity of media coverage of females in sports, but a decrease in quality in how women were perceived in media. This unfortunately, is an issue that still affects women in sports today. The shift into athletics catapulted women’s athletics to the forefront of the Title IX march for equality and provided us with what athletics looks like today.

Title IX still remains a prevalent topic of discussion within the world of athletics and within the female community. The use of it in an athletic context has given rise to pop ups of female empowerment. Women in sports are finally being provided the same resources as men; there are however, questions as to whether or not those resources match in quality. For example, in April of 2017, the Women’s National Hockey team went on strike in order to prompt USA Hockey for more funding. Female National and Professional hockey players in the United States make significantly less amounts of money than their male counterparts and thus, they have to take up second jobs. Title IX sparked protests outside of an educational setting and empowered women to fight for their rights. Another example of women in sports was the protest of the US Women’s National Soccer team, who also protested the inequities in their pay. While both women’s team had opportunities to represent their nation, and receive money while doing so, the quality of their compensation did not match nearly as close as the men. With this, it brings to question why the United States is so slow to reform and change in order to empower the women of the nation. It took years for women to finally become accepted into schools and universities, a long time for them to receive the same quality of education, even longer for them to be allowed to participate in athletics, and now even though they are allowed to participate in athletics, the treatment of women still remains questionable. The shift of Title IX into athletics and the progression of the STEM fields show that progress is possible and doors can be opened when vying for change. However, progress is still slow, as studies conducted in 2003 show that men made up over three quarters of the students enrolled in higher education STEM programs (National Women’s Law Center, 2012). So while the act itself opened up more doors, progress in the STEM field is slow moving, just as it has been with women in athletics. With the treatment of women remaining questionable and the slow progression of change for women, it brings to light future implications for the Title IX act which has begun to spring up in the last few years. Particularly, in the past few years the amount of uprising sparked by women have moved Title IX into a new area which covers issues of sexual harassment on college campuses. The versatility of Title IX, what it represents as a law to protect women, and the slow moving doors that it opens, provides women a chance of equality in all aspects of life. While the change may be slow, it is a change nonetheless.



Flygare, T. J. (1981). Federal Court in Michigan Holds That Title IX Does Not Cover Athletics. Phi Delta Kappan, 62(10), 741-42. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/20386125.pdf

Intercollegiate athletics policy: three-part test part three. (n.d.). US Department of Education: Office of Civil Rights website: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/Title9-qa-20100420.html

Kane, M. J. (1988). Media coverage of the female athlete before, during, and after Title IX: Sports Illustrated revisited. Journal of sport management, 2(2), 87-99.

Kuhn, J. L. (1976). Title IX: Employment and Athletics Are Outside HEW’s Jurisdiction. Geo. LJ, 65, 49.

Kuhn, J. (1976). Title IX: Employment and Athletics Are Outside Hew’s Jurisdiction. Georgetown Law Journal 65(1), 49-78

Mango, K. (1991). Students Versus Professors: Combating Sexual Harassment Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Connecticut Law Review 23(2), 355-412.

Title IX opening the gates of higher education. (n.d.). Birch Bayh: Title IX website: http://www.birchbayh.com/id3.html

Title IX 40 years and counting. (2012, June). May 4, 2017, from National Women’s Law Center.https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/nwlcstem_titleixfactsheet.pdf

Walters, J., & McNeely, C. L. (2010). Recasting Title IX: Addressing gender equity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professoriate. Review of Policy Research, 27(3), 317-332.

Ware, S. (2007). Title IX: A brief history with documents. Bedford/St. Martins.