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Thursday marks the 50-year anniversary of Title IX being passed into law. Deborah Larkin — coach of the Mount Anthony girls tennis program — has worked on a national social impact campaign named ‘DemandIX’ to call attention to Title IX and the work that still needs to be done for gender equity for everyone in education.

DemandIX was created by the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, the Women’s Sports Foundation and the National Women’s Law Center. Larkin is the former CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation according to her LinkedIn account.

Below is a story written by Larkin and shared to the Bennington Banner on the progress of Title IX and what still needs improvement.

Title IX was passed 50 years ago on June 23, 1972. This federal civil rights law has been credited with profoundly changing education in the United States by barring sex discrimination in the nation’s schools.

Remember what it was like in the early 70’s? A woman couldn’t get a credit card in her name without a man signing for her. In many states, a woman couldn’t serve on jury duty. Equal pay and sexual harassment weren’t taken seriously. Roe v Wade was passed in 1973.

In schools, girls had limited opportunities to pursue math, technology, and science. Hillary Clinton wanted to be an astronaut as a teen and wrote to NASA, which wrote back and said, “thank you very much; we’re not taking girls.” A college admissions advisor told Anita Hill she should “do something easier” than science because it was unfathomable that a Black woman could be a scientist. (Hill graduated top of her class.)

There weren’t protections for students who experienced bullying and sexual harassment. Girls who were parenting or pregnant were often forced to drop out. In many K-12 schools, girls didn’t have PE; instead, they square danced when boys played sports. In higher education, there were virtually no scholarships for girls.

Title IX addressed these areas and more, but most of us equate Title IX with sports. A lot has changed in athletics for women over the past 50 years. In 1972, 294,000 girls played high school sports; today that number is 3.4 million. The number of women playing college sports increased from 30,000 to 276,000.

Girls were vastly underrepresented in the Olympics, both by the number of events and opportunities, but by the 2020 Olympic Games, the US actually sent more women than men to the games, (winning 58% of the medals). In 1972, there were few opportunities for women to play professional sports and compensation was often spotty. Today, women are playing professionally in both individual and team sports. In some sports women receive equal pay and prize money, and endorsements can reach millions.

Because of Title IX, women have made great progress, but are we there yet? Girls still lag boys’ high school participation levels. In fact, girls today still haven’t reached boys’ participation levels from 1972 (girls 3.4 million — today — vs. boys 3.6 million — 1972).

While Title IX opened up doors for many, there are still systemic barriers to education, especially for girls and women of color, LGBTQI+ students, individuals from rural or low income communities, and people with disabilities. In 1972, 90% of college coaches of women’s sports were women. Now that number is below 50%, and only 7% are BIPOC. The number of female college Athletic Directors is 20%, and only 4% are BIPOC.

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In youth sports, the number of male coaches has expanded so much that some female athletes get to college without ever having a female coach. When we talk about equal pay, we rejoice that US women’s and men’s national soccer teams will now receive equal pay. But, you only have to follow the plight of Brittany Griner, Olympic gold medal winner, NCAA national champion, FIBA World Cup gold medal and WNBA champion who, as do almost half of all WNBA players, plays overseas to supplement her income.

Media coverage remains dismal, hovering at 4% (except during the Olympics when women received 48% coverage). When we can’t find or see women’s sports, it affects scholarships, sponsorships, and participation. As we well know, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

As outrageous as this media stat may be, perhaps the most outrageous stat is that upwards of 80% of all athletic programs are not in compliance with Title IX.

Last year, Sedona Prince, a U of Oregon basketball player, exposed real-time gender discrepancies in weight room facilities and equipment during the NCAA Final Four Championships. Her video went viral, and other widespread inequities were exposed. A major report was authorized, resulting in changes at this year’s tournament.

This May, USA Today published a report illustrating how over 100 schools participated in practices where they inflated cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track participation opportunities, padded rowing rosters, and counted male practice partners on female rosters in basketball all in an effort to meet Title IX requirements. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents.

Polls tell us that 60% of the public and 75% of students don’t know about Title IX. Some 83% of college coaches have never received formal Title IX training. Recent focus groups conducted by the Women’s Sports Foundation indicate that while the students don’t know about the actual law, they do know when they’ve experienced discrimination. They value fairness and are willing to fight for it for themselves and their classmates.

The stakes are too high for it to take us another 50 years to fulfill the promise of Title IX. It is widely known that an education is the gateway to greater economic and other opportunities in life. If it weren’t for Title IX, women wouldn’t be astronauts, engineers, serve in the military, or pursue many other careers never before open to women. We know that 94% of women in the C-suite were athletes, and 80% of women Fortune 500 executives played competitive sports. We owe it to the next generation to give them the tools to continue the fight and achieve fairness for everyone.

Now is the time to get this done. In this 50th Anniversary year, the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, the National Women’s Law Center and the Women’s Sports Foundation plus other individuals have created a national campaign to increase the pace of change toward equality and fairness for all. It’s called DEMAND IX.

The purpose of the campaign is to coordinate efforts to galvanize the impact of individual Title IX Anniversary projects into one aspirational campaign that amplifies Title IX efforts + provides opportunities for public participation. The goal is to engage 100 partners to gather 1 million pledges to fight for strong Title IX protections and enforcement so national organizations wield more power when they fight on Capitol Hill and students have more resources to successfully demand equality on campus.

If you’d like to sign the Demand IX pledge, visit act.nwlc.org/a/demand-ix/

I signed because I don’t want girls to face the barriers I faced. I want girls to have opportunities to play, lead, and choose professions based on their skills; I never want to hear a story that a Black or LBGTQ or disabled female student is told to do something easier just because she’s female.


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