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Christine Brennan examines impact of Title IX 45 years later

On the 45th anniversary of Title IX, I want to take you to the 90th anniversary of Title IX.

It’s 2062. Women have been president of the United States for so long that men are starting to wonder when they’ll get the chance again. It has been 22 consecutive years, we think, although it’s easy to lose count.

There are 60 women in the U.S. Senate and 250 in the House of Representatives. There are so many female doctors and lawyers in America that it is becoming rarer every day to hire a male lawyer or go to a male doctor. In fact, some make the point that they “go to a male doctor,” a twist on the “woman doctor” adage from their grandparents’ day.

Women have taken over quite a few boardrooms. Hundreds are in charge of universities and major corporations. A record number own or run sports teams, in the pros and in college.

What does this have to do with the girl next door playing weekend soccer, or your daughter playing on her high school volleyball team, or your niece playing AAU basketball?

Everything.

“The benefits will be in what happens after the playing days are over, namely more women in leadership positions in our society,” Big East commissioner and former WNBA president Val Ackerman wrote in an email. “Whether doctors, lawyers, engineers, CEOs, senators, university presidents, tech titans — the pathways for women will keep easing because sports can pave the way.”

For much of the 20th century, this nation made a huge mistake. It denied half of its population the opportunity to learn about teamwork, sportsmanship, physical fitness, confidence and winning and losing at a young age. Boys were allowed to play sports. Girls mostly were not. This happened for generations.

Then, on June 23, 1972 — six days after the Watergate break-in, ironically enough — President Richard Nixon signed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibited high schools and colleges that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of gender in any program or activity, including sports.

It took a decade or two for Title IX to get going, but the floodgates were ready to open, and they did. What happened is what you see in your neighborhood, multiplied by thousands of neighborhoods: Millions of girls and women playing sports, filling the athletic fields you drive by every day, so omnipresent that they barely attract your attention anymore. Had you driven by those fields 45 years ago, the only girls you would have seen are those who had run over to tell their brothers it was time to come home for dinner.

To put it mildly, the law has become wildly successful. America has fallen in love with what it created. The 1999 Women’s World Cup soccer tournament was one of our first big hints. (The only event ever to make the covers of Time, Newsweek, People and Sports Illustrated the same week.) The record success of U.S. women at the Olympic Games, leading the way in the medal count, is another. College scholarships? Are you kidding? Name a father (or a mother) who isn’t as into their daughter’s games as they are their son’s.

And those remaining naysayers? The three men hiding under a desk somewhere in Montana who despise Title IX? Come out now, guys. It’s over.

“The passage of Title IX 45years ago changed the trajectory of American women, thus transforming our culture,” Donna de Varona, Olympic gold medalist and Title IX advocate, said in an email. “We found our way into space, onto the Supreme Court and into the high echelons of politics. In the sporting arena, we became visible affirmations of what is possible, offering up strong, confident role models for future generations.”

Title IX is still relatively young, but its impact has been far more dramatic than most of us realize. An Ernst & Young and espnW survey found that among businesswomen now in the C-suite (CEOs, CFOs, etc.), a stunning 94% played sports, and 52% played college sports.

Every year, this nation pumps millions of young female athletes into our culture, into the workplace, into the world. They are now in their 20s, 30s and 40s. They’re not going away, and they’re not going to stop playing sports recreationally, which is why the U.S. Golf Association now features women and girls in practically every one of its TV commercials, while cities big and small are adding half-marathons and triathlons by the dozens every year.

If a sports governing body or a state or local organization is not racking its collective brain trying to figure out how to attract these women into their sport, it is missing a massive, long-term financial opportunity.

Perhaps most important, these young women are not going to forget what they learned through sports.

Tennis legend and women’s sports icon Billie Jean King thinks they will have a profound effect on the future of this country. “The young women graduating college in the next few years may be the first generation of women to receive equal pay for equal work in their professional lifetime and Title IX is helping secure their future,” she wrote in an email.

There still are concerns, certainly. While Title IX permeates every suburban girl’s life, girls and young women in less-privileged areas of urban and rural America have been missed. Men, not women, still get hired for many of the plum women’s college coaching jobs. And noted Title IX attorney and Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar worries that, “without some heavy backpedaling soon, the Trump administration could cripple the Department of Education for generations to come.”

But, all in all, this is a very happy anniversary for Title IX. To celebrate, why not go to a girls’ or women’s sporting event? That 10-year-old girl out there on the soccer field? You’re going to vote for her someday.- by Christine Brennan, USA TODAY

 

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