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Title IX and the Rise of Female Athletes in America

Title IX states that, “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 educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Let’s take a moment to break that down before we move forward. Title IX was established in 1972 to provide everyone with equal access to any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance, including sports. This means that federally funded institutions, such as public schools, are legally required to provide girls and boys with equitable sports opportunities.

Before Title IX, one in 27 girls played sports. Today that number is two in five. While we still have far to go before every girl has equal access to sports, especially girls of color, it is clear that we are making headway. This summer at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the world watched as woman after woman broke barriers, shattered records and won titles across a multitude of sports.

From gymnastics and water polo, to basketball and swimming, it was clear the American women dominated the Olympic scene. There has been a steady increase in the participation of American women at the Olympics since the passage of Title IX and this summer we watched as hundreds of girls who benefited from this law made history.

In an article by the Los Angeles Times, former Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) CEO Donna Lopiano attests to the change Title IX has generated in the United States by saying, “We give more opportunity to women in this country, and it’s not even close. You are seeing the effects of that in these Olympics.”

In another article, appropriately titled ‘Amazing things happen when you give female athletes the same funding as men,’ WSF’s first President, Donna de Varona, praises the effects of Title IX on women’s sports. “Since 1972, thanks to increased funding and institutional opportunities, there has been a 545% increase in the percentage of women playing college sports and a 990% increase in the percentage of women playing high school sport.”

Title IX is a terrific model for the rest of the world to follow as Lopiano notes in The New York Times: “We have the largest base of athletic development. Our women are going to dominate, not only because of their legal rights but because women in other parts of the world are discriminated against.” A very unfortunate, but true fact.

It is evident that the impact of Title IX is long-term and far-reaching. Now that the door is “open,” more women and girls are taking advantage of the opportunity to play sports and carrying the lessons they learn from sport far beyond the field of play. For the Women’s Sports Foundation this is essential to our mission of creating leaders by ensuring girls access to sports. Sports help girls find success on the field, in the classroom and in boardrooms across the country. Go Team USA! Go Title IX!