Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 6th, is National Girls & Women in Sports Day, which has people singing the praises of Title IX from soccer fields, softball diamonds, tracks, pools and countless other sporting venues – and for good reason! Title IX is an enormously important law for female athletes – no other law has done more to open doors for women and girls in athletics. While there is still work to be done, the progress we have made thanks to Title IX is tremendous.
1. Equal Opportunities in career and technical programs in traditionally male-dominated fields
Title IX requires that girls and boys be given equal opportunities in career and technical education programs, particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields. Getting more women in these fields may be the key to closing the gender wage gap, since predominantly female occupations pay lower wages than predominantly male ones. Women still face barriers and a lack of encouragement in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (often referred to as STEM), but Title IX has broadened opportunities for a number of women and girls.
2. Protection for pregnant & parenting students
Title IX requires that pregnant and parenting students have equal access to schools and activities, that all separate programs are completely voluntary, and that schools excuse absences due to pregnancy or childbirth for as long as it is deemed medically necessary. In short: pregnancy should be treated no differently than a temporary medical condition.
Yet many pregnant and parenting students still face discrimination in their schools. Take the story of Lisette Orellana, a straight-A student who had taken all the usual precautions and still got pregnant, and instead of support from her favorite teachers, she now faced discrimination and bullying from not only her fellow students, but also her favorite teachers. Despite the fact that it was a battle to go to school every morning and face those who were actively rooting against her, Orellana graduated with honors. Orellana is a rare success story, however – only about one-half of teen mothers get a high school diploma by age 22, compared with 89% of women who do not have a child during their teen years. One-third of teenage mothers never get a G.E.D. or diploma, and less than 2% of young teenage mothers attain a college degree by age 30.
3. Protections against sexual harassment and bullying
Sexual harassment is a form of prohibited sex discrimination in schools under Title IX, and much of what we call “bullying” is actually prohibited harassment.
Forty-eight percent of all elementary school teachers nationwide reported that they have heard students make sexist remarks at their school, and one-third of students have heard kids at school say that girls or boys should not do or wear certain things because of their gender. Fifty-six percent of students who don’t conform to traditional gender norms say that they are bullied at school and 85% of LGBT students report being verbally harassed, with 64% being verbally harassed because of their gender expression. Title IX protects all students – male and female – from harassment and bullying.
4. Protections for sexual assault and rape victims
Title IX grants protections for survivors of sexual assault and rape by requiring schools to provide a prompt and equitable resolution of sexual violence complants, investigate those complaints regardless of whether or not law enforcement is involved, provide alternate housing a comfortable distance from attackers, and provide counseling, medical, and academic support.
In the words of former NWLC intern Dana Bolger, who learned about the full protections of Title IX after being raped her Sophomore year of college, “Title IX is not just about sports. It says your college can’t make you leave school because you were raped and feel unsafe. They’re supposed to make sure the campus is not a sexually hostile environment.”