How Title IX changed the landscape of sports
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2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the breakthrough law in the US, Title IX. We look at how this law has contributed to the development of women’s sports.

What is Title IX? 

The Education Amendment Act was signed into law by Richard Nixon, the former president of the United States of America, in 1972. Title IX of the law recognized education as an equal right for all. Within the title, there was a clause prohibiting gender-based discrimination in sports programmes, granting equal opportunity to both men and women to participate in sports. 

In 1975, specific provisions to prevent gender-based discrimination in sports participation came into place, which also provided educational institutes with three years to fulfill the requirements of Title IX. Following this, in 1978, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, mandated the provision of equal opportunities to men and women in all educational institutes. 

Title IX requires all educational institutions in the US to reward male and female athletes equally. Along with that, it also ensures the prevention of discrimination when it comes to accessing sports facilities, training centers, equipment, and other support provided to sport programmes. 

In order to ensure compliance with Title IX, universities and colleges in the US are supposed to provide an annual Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Report, which tracks participation, coaching staff and salaries, revenues, and expenses. Additionally, athletic departments are also required to ensure that the ratio of men and women’s participation opportunities is proportionate to the total number of students in an institution. 

What has been the impact of Title IX?

Title IX came into effect during the second wave of feminism, a time when women were fighting for equal work, equal opportunities, and extended childcare services. Women’s involvement in sport was limited, mostly to participation at the collegiate level. Before the introduction of Title IX, some efforts were made to encourage inter-collegiate sport among women. This included appointing a Commission on Intercollegiate Sports for Women in 1966 and in 1969, along with the announcement of several national championships for women. 

However, post the implementation of Title IX, the participation of women in sports in the US significantly increased in high school and college athletics. Data from 2010-11 suggests that 41% of the high school athletes in the US were female as compared to the participation before the implementation of Title IX, which was only 7%. Similarly, in college athletics, female participation went up by 456% from 29,972 in 1971-72 to 166,728 in 2007-08. 

Due to the increase in participation of women in sports, American women were also able to progress in other aspects of their life. A study from 2010 found that participation in sports helped increase the employment and education levels in America. Moreover, it has also been noted that Title IX was able to create better access to sports facilities for women. As American society was going through major changes in its social blueprint, Title IX was also seen as one of the steps towards gender parity in the country. Given the global political climate at the time, Title IX was inspiring for women across the world. 

Where does it fall short? 

Despite the successes of Title IX, there are certain areas that still need to be worked upon.  

Women from marginalized sections have not been able to benefit from Title IX as much. A report from the Women’s Sports Foundation found that girls at schools where people of color are in majority have access to 67% of the athletic opportunities that boys do. This is starkly different from the numbers in predominantly white schools where girls see 82% of the athletic opportunities that boys do. 

Although Title IX made a provision for additional funding to promote women’s participation in sports at the collegiate level, departments in certain colleges do not have equitable spending for men and women’s participation in athletics. As per a report by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), in the institutes that fall under the first division of the NCAA, the spending for men’s athletics is three times more than what it is for women. 

As a result of the provision for better funding opportunities for women in sports, some universities have stopped giving awards and scholarships in other subjects solely to women. Moreover, the Department of Education has also started reducing the number of scholarships, leadership programs, and awards for women in other disciplines.

Women hold only 41.1% of the coaching positions across all colleges and universities in the US. As Title IX allocated more funds for women’s sports, universities increased the salaries of sport coaches for women. Given the high salaries, men also gained interest in coaching positions previously held by women. Even the administrative positions lack representation as only 25% of NCAA head coaching and athletic directors’ positions are held by women. 

A major reason for many institutions and universities not adhering to the rules set by Title IX is the ambiguous nature of regulations set out by the law. Universities can easily evade the regulations, which further creates accountability issues. 

Way forward

In the last 50 years, Title IX has played a significant role in enhancing women’s participation in sports in the USA. Recently, the Biden administration expanded Title IX through certain progressive amendments. One of them included strengthening the rights of the LGBTQ+ community within the scope of the law. 

Other areas that need to be improved upon include a more sustainable compliance structure for educational institutions, better provisions for minorities, more representation of women in leadership positions, and better management of funds. The success of Title IX should certainly be celebrated, but with the recognition of how to move forward into the next fifty years. 

Despite its shortcomings, Title IX is one of the first few laws to create institutional provisions for women’s representation in sport and it has indeed been able to bring a historic change in the landscape of women’s sports. Looking at the scale of the impact, it can be said that it is important to bring changes at the policy level when it comes to women’s representation, especially in sports. Institutional changes bring in compliance structures, which are important to ensure accountability, particularly in the context of women’s representation in sports.


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