Leading up to the 40th anniversary of Title IX in June of this year, SWSG will be featuring monthly blog posts reflecting on where this monumental legislation stands today, 40 years after its enactment. Our first blogger, Diana Cutaia, is the Director of Athletics at Wheelock College.
I am a strong woman, because through sport, I learned to be a strong girl. And, for those of you questioning my definition of strength — yes, it includes muscles, and I’m pretty proud of them!  But, it also includes the ability to stand in the face of adversity and say, “I got this.” It includes a dedication to mentoring that says, “You got this!” and it includes a voice in my head that says, “Go and get it.” I’m pretty lucky because I was born in 1973. (I’m not lucky because bell bottoms were the rage, and my mother made me wear them). I am lucky because I was a “Title IX” baby. Title IX, a law that was enacted on June 23, 1972, opened a pinhole to begin carving the way for an expansion of opportunity for girls and women in sports.  The law is simple:
“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…”
—United States Code Section 20
Fast-forward 40 years and one might argue that what began as a small stream you could step across has swelled to a raging river of access for girls.  The growth of participation for girls in sports has grown exponentially!  In 1971, 1 out of every 27 girls played high school sports. Today, 1 out of every 3 girls plays high school sports.
Recent studies over the last several years have shown that although girls are gaining more access to participation, equality is not in the ethos of sport.  This means that opportunities for women are not expanding at the same rate that they are for girls and, in fact, in some areas, they are declining. For instance, the Acosta/Carpenter National Longitudinal Study of Women in Intercollege Sport found the following:

  • 42.6% of women’s teams are coached by a female head coach.
  • 57.4% of women’s teams are coached by a male head coach.
  • Less than 3 % of men’s teams are coached by a female head coach.
  • 20.9% of all teams (men’s and women’s) are coached by a female head coach.[i]

When Title IX was enacted in 1972, over 90% of the head coaches for women’s teams and about 2% of the coaches of men’s teams were female.  Many of these positions, however, were volunteer or part-time positions.
And in administration, women are seeing a decline as well. According to the same report, there are fewer female athletic administrators in college athletics than there were in 2006. Additionally:

  • 19.1% of athletics directors are females.  This represents a decrease from 21.3% in 2008.  In 1972, when Title IX was enacted, women served as athletics directors in over 90% of programs for women.
  • Division III schools have the highest percentage of female athletics directors at 29.9% (decline from 33.7% in 06.)
  • Some schools have no women, at any level, in the athletics administrative structures. The percentage of schools totally lacking a female voice  in 2010 is 13.2%.[ii]

I hope for a day when we will no longer need to legislate equality and fairness, when it will just be part of the fabric of our culture. Today is not that day, and in response, we must fight to keep Title IX strong, so that we can continue to keep supporting strong girls in becoming strong women.