Olympics 2012: Title IX made women gold medalists possible at 2012 Olypmpics

Missy Franklin, the gymnastics Fab Five, women’s basketball and soccer teams are products of Title IX changing women’s athletics. Photo: The Fab Five, USA's gymnastics team, with Bob Costas AP

WYTHE COUNTY. Va., August 1, 2012 — Forty years ago Title IX gave little girls a reason to dare to dream to be Olympic champions. Now for the first time in Olympics history there are more women than men competing: 269 women and 261 men.

Originally called the Education Amendments Act of 1972,  it is better known as Title IX. This legislation barred gender discrimination in all aspects of education. 

Before Title IX was law in 1972, there was no provision in education for funding women’s organized sports. And the first women’s full sports scholarship was not awarded until 1974, thanks to Title IX, going to Ann Meyers to play basketball at UCLA. From there the rest is history. The handful of scholarships in those early days has grown to 5,070 available today for women’s basketball, just at the division one level. 

The increase in women’s college basketball scholarships is a direct result of Title IX having a dramatic impact at the Olympic level with the U.S. women’s teams winning gold medals at the last four Olympics. They have not lost a game since 1992. 

Candace Parker, USA women’s basketball

When Angel McCoughtry  and company take the court this Olympics, they are heavily favored to be the first team ever to win five straight gold medals in a traditional sport. 

Title IX was the first comprehensive federal law to prohibit sex discrimination against students and employees in these institutions.

The results are tangible and real, consider the following:

Before Title IX:

*Many schools and universities had separate entrances for male and female students.

*Female students were not allowed to take certain courses, such as auto mechanics or criminal justice; male students could not take home economics.

*Most medical and law schools limited the number of women admitted to 15 or fewer per school.

*Many colleges and universities required women to have higher test scores and better grades than male applicants to gain admission.

*Women living on campus were not allowed to stay out past midnight.

*Women faculty members were excluded from faculty clubs and encouraged to join faculty wives’ clubs instead.

*After winning two gold medals in the 1964 Olympics, swimmer Donna de Varona could not obtain a college swimming scholarship. For women scholarships did not exist.

After Title IX:

*In 1973, 43% of female high school graduates were enrolled in college. This grew to 63% in 1994.

*In 1971, 18% of young women and 26% of young men had completed four years or more of college; in 1994, 27% of both men and women had earned bachelor’s degrees.

Hope Solo, USA women’s soccer goalie

*In 1972, women received 9% of medical degrees but by 1994 that number had moved up to 38%; 1% of dental degrees grew to 38% in 1994; and the percentage of law degrees earned by women had moved from 7% in 1971 to 43% in 1994.

*Today, more than 100,000 women participate in intercollegiate athletics, a four-fold increase from 1971. That same year, 300,000 women (7.5%) were high school athletes; in 1996, that figure had increased to 2.4 million (39%).

*Title IX prohibits schools from suspending, expelling or discriminating against pregnant high school students in educational programs and activities. From 1980 to 1990, dropout rates for pregnant students declined 30%, increasing the chances the mothers will be able to support and care for their children.

*80% of female managers of Fortune 500 companies have a sports background.

*High school girls who participate in team sports are less likely to drop out of school, smoke, drink, or become pregnant.

Title IX was first used to remedy gender based hiring practices in educational occupations, it went on to assure female athletes they would be given equal footing with men on the playing fields. This all may seem a bit vague, until one does before and after comparisons.

Before Title IX women made up only 7% of all high school athletes. As of 2008 they represented 41% of all high school athletes.

Missy Franklin, gold medal swimmer

Before Title IX women made up 15% of all college athletes. By 2008 they represented 43% of all college athletes.

Before Title IX female college teams received only 2% of athletic budgets. By 2005  women’s college athletics received 33% of total athletic expenditures. 

To further explore the profound impact of Title IX on women’s athletics, consider perrenial powerhouse USC’s medal count in the Olympics before Title IX. Prior to 1972 USC’s women had received only 10 medals. After Title IX and up to and including the 2010 Olympics, they have won a total of 73 medals, including 31 gold.

Whether or not you are a fan of Title IX, it does not take Einstein to prove Title IX has had a positive effect on women’s athletics and women’s education in general, despite the criticism the legislation first received. It has elevated women as full participants in society and with it the entire country.

Even more important, as a result of Title IX, tonight while watching the Olympics with your daughter or niece, when she asks, “Can I be an Olympian one day?” You can smile and answer, “Yes, you can be anything your heart desires with enough hard work.”

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Lisa King

I was born and educated in Southwest Virginia, traveled with my job all over America in my twenties and early thirties then came back to the mountains to raise my daughter.

I’ve been employed as everything from a quality control technician in industrial construction, to a mail processing plant manager, to postmaster of a small town. I’ve been to forty nine of the fifty states, as well as many other countries. Traveling will always be a passion I indulge, and something I’ll call upon often in my writing. 

I come from a long line of story tellers, and will shamelessly exploit a family tree resplendent with colorful and unique characters, both past and present.

In short my perspective will reflect the pride and familiarity I have of my Appalachian heritage. My stories will be a reflection of the values I believe we hold dearest here, all embellished with a healthy dose of Southern Appalachian flare.


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