June 22, 2012

White House celebrates Title IX: 37 words that changed America

Author: by Leslie Duncan Fottrell
Source: NYSUT Communications
Caption: L-R: Schenectady Federation of Teachers President Juliet Benaquisto, NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin at the White House.

NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue and Schenectady Federation of Teachers President Juliet Benaquisto attended the 40th anniversary celebration for Title IX at the White House in June.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires gender equity in any education program that receives federal funding.

"When people think about the benefits of Title IX they usually think it is about giving girls equal access in sports," said NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue. "That has been one of the benefits, but Title IX has also provided opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. The bottom line is gender equity has been good for everyone."

In addition to athletics, TItle IX has important implications for gender equity in STEM, career and technical education, sexual harassment and bullying, single sex education and pregnant and parenting students.

The event streamed live on the Internet, and audience members were encouraged to connect with friends via Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. The event began with a video describing the history of the legislation, available for viewing here: www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2012/06/20/title-ix-40.

Former Sen. Birch Bayh, considered the "Father of Title IX," spoke, as did Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

The event also had two forums focusing on sports and STEM, with panelists such as tennis great Billie Jean King; Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, Tom Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, U.S. Department of Justice, and Gabriela Farfan, a Stanford University undergrad majoring in geology, discussing the impact of Title IX in sports and in the STEM careers and in the business world.

The benefits of Title IX have been many. According to a White House news release, since 1972 girls' participation in collegiate sports has increased from 30,000 to 190,000 and the "proportion of female professions in science and mathematics has more than doubled." It also cites a recent study showing an increase in girls' participation in sports leads years later to a "greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly high skill, high wage, fields."

Benaquisto described the panels' cross generational impact on the audience.

"Each panel had women who had gone through school before Title IX, during the first decades of it, and there was even a (current) undergraduate student. Each had a different experience. It really made me think how far we have come and yet how much work is still to be done."

"We still have a lot of work to do," said Tom Perez, citing the amount of harassment and bullying that still goes on; adding that bullying is not a right of passage. Perez also said that making sure campuses are safe for women is an important goal.

Cecilia Muñoz, the director of White House Domestic Policy, echoed that sentiment and said that even as it was appropriate to celebrate Title IX's success, important work is still to be done. She discussed new initiatives the White House is working on including having federal agencies work together to come up with common guidelines and expanding efforts to identify gender gaps through civil rights data collection.

Title IX is deceptively brief - one 37-word sentence. But the impact of those words continues to reverberate as generations of children grow up with the promise of equal access to opportunity. Here it is:

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 education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.