Women Athletes Have a Reason to Celebrate
“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.”
That sentence – while encompassing an enormous spectrum of opportunity – changed the way women would participate in high school and college athletics when it was signed into law in 1972. It may be hard to image the playing field not being quite so level before then, but in honor of the 40th anniversary of Title IX (often called the Patsy T. Mink Equality Opportunity in Education Act), the Women’s Sports Foundation – founded in 1974 by Billie Jean King – will be kicking off a year-long celebration.
Nancy Hogshead-Makar and Andrew Zimbalist, researchers and authors of Title IX and Social Change, contend that Title IX has had a “greater effect” on women’s lives than any other legislation except women’s suffrage.
“When Karen Hantze and I won the Ladies’ Doubles at Wimbledon in 1961, there were not nearly as many opportunities for girls and women in sports as there are today,” says King. “The passage of Title IX legislation in 1972 opened important doors.”
Before Title IX, the primary physical activities for girls were cheerleading and square-dancing. We’re not kidding. Only one in 27 girls even played high school sports. And there were virtually no college scholarships for female athletes. And of the athletics that were available to women on the college level, only two percent of the overall budget was actually spent on it.
But that has all changed. Big time.
Today, as many as 3.06 million girls play sports in high school, and 166,800 young women play on college teams, according to Title IX and Social Change. At the college level, there has been a nearly 450 percent increase in participation by female athletes.
Without a law like Title IX, we wouldn’t have witnessed quite a few landmark moments in women’s sports, like the time Mia Hamm tore off her jersey after making that winning goal – or even the dawn of the WNBA.
It’s also created more buzz among amateurs, like the LGBT teams in Philly. Want to get involved? Check out Team Philadelphia for a list of softball, soccer, running, swimming, wrestling and tennis opportunities just in time for the spring.
Check out more about the Women’s Sports Foundation here: