Last summer marked an important anniversary of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education activities. Title IX revolutionized athletic programs for girls and women. To ensure equal opportunity, Title IX requires institutions to pass a three-prong test that covers participation, athletic and financial assistance, and treatment.
The importance of Title IX is not simply how many girls are playing sports, but what they get out of those opportunities. Studies reveal that girls’ participation in sports leads to increases in women’s education and employment rates and decreases in women’s obesity rates. Girls who play sports are less likely to experience teen pregnancy and depression and more likely to experience academic success, high self-esteem, and positive body image.
The protections of Title IX, which helped set the stage for today’s elite outlets, do not reach beyond federally funded educational institutions, so the fates of current and future women’s leagues are left to the realities of the marketplace and make-or-break impulses of fans.
Will fans come out and support the best female athletes? And if they do, will surges in owner investment, corporate support and media rights revenues follow?
Title IX was passed in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments of that year. Its main aim is to prevent sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal funding. These institutions must provide equal treatment across all areas of work, to both students and employees. Otherwise, they risk losing federal funding for not complying with federal law.
Women in sports, from elementary to higher education levels, benefit from greater access to team sports and resources. Prior to Title IX, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) did not host athletic championships for female teams. Women also failed to receive athletic scholarships for colleges and universities. Team doctors, insurance, and equal access to athletic facilities were lacking for collegiate women’s sports teams.
Sex-based discrimination has prevented women from achieving their full potential. The lack of resources catered to their needs as well as the threat of harassment and sexual abuse in every sphere of life also reduced their educational opportunities. Understanding the importance of Title IX is detrimental to the comprehension of women’s rights and the barriers they face in society.
In 2022, 90 percent of colleges still don’t offer athletic opportunities to female athletes proportional to their enrollment. While Title IX opened doors for girls at the high school and collegiate level, professional opportunities for female athletes bear little resemblance to those presented to male athletes.
It’s time for sports media to substantially invest in professional women’s sports. It’s time to give the space for girl athletes to dream big. We all collectively, men and women, need to do more about gender equality.