Did Title IX change the educational experience for women and girls in the United States? The civil rights legislation, which applies to all schools and educational agencies, aimed to break down gender-based barriers –– also aims to improve prevention and reporting of sex-based harassment and assault.
Title IX is a 1972 amendment to the Civil Rights Act, states: “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.”
While the law covers most K-12 schools, colleges and universities, as well as vocational schools, libraries and museums, the law applies to tens of millions of students, as well as educators. It addresses sexual assault and violence on campus, employment discrimination, retaliation, and gender bias.
Scope of Impact
While the scope of its impact is much broader than athletics, where do we even begin to dissect this major change?
“Women were not inclined to manage their families and a coaching career,” Lisa Fortier states. “They left their coaching jobs once they got pregnant.” In today’s world, women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier (’06) shatters that glass ceiling. She is raising three young children with husband and assistant coach Craig Fortier, winning West Coast Conference championships, and routinely advancing to the NCAA tournament.
Title IX impacted the composition of auxiliary staff as well. Athletic trainers and conditioning coaches were once predominantly male, and women’s teams did not receive the same level of service. Now women trainers represent an equitable gender mix, with women serving both male and female student-athletes.
“It is important to retain our young, talented staff,” states Heather Gores (’03 M.A.), associate athletic director for Gonzaga internal operations. “We want to provide resources to assist them in doing their jobs well. “The proportion of female coaches has been declining nationwide due to a variety of factors, but largely due to barriers with work-family conflicts. We would like to help change the narrative around this and support our new mothers/parents and show that they can be successful in their job and parenthood."
Growth for All
New facilities in the last 20 years have given women and men a chance to compete at a higher level. Fortier sees opportunities for women as the biggest benefit Title IX has provided.
“Title IX has changed the face of athletics for girls and women entirely,” Fortier states. “It used to be that opportunities were only in sports that were ‘appropriate’ for women. But thankfully, people have realized that all sports are appropriate for women. At Gonzaga, we are treated very well, I am treated as someone who can add value to the athletic department and the University, and I’m grateful for that.”
It is only through shining a light on the thousands of moments that have come from Title IX that we can see the monumental change this historic legislation has brought about.