Today marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a landmark civil rights law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
Generations of women have now had the opportunity to grow up participating in school athletic programs and learning and growing as leaders and teammates thanks to the opportunities made possible by Title IX.
In 1972, only 7% of high school athletes participating on varsity teams were girls. By 2018-19, that number had climbed to 43%.
Unfortunately, there is still a need to improve the availability of athletic opportunities for girls. Most states do not offer athletic opportunities to female high school athletes proportional to their enrollment in public schools.
White and wealthier girls continue to have more access to athletic opportunities than do poorer and minority girls. Schools attended mostly by students of color generally have fewer athletic opportunities available to students, and gender disparities are greater at those schools with girls having only 67% of the athletic opportunities afforded to boys.
Going forward, Title IX is likely to have an important role in securing the legal rights of transgender students to compete on athletic teams. Under President Biden, the Education Department has stated that transgender students are protected under Title IX even as at least 31 states have introduced bills to ban transgender students from playing on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.
Read more about Title IX at 50 from the Women’s Sports Foundation.