Saturday, December 13, 2008

"You've Come a Long Way, Baby!" Or Have You?

Because of the women's civil rights movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, Americans became engaged in the debate on sex bias in education. On July 1, 1972, Title IX took effect which ensures that “(N)o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational programs or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Not without its detractors, women have made great strides in intercollegiate sport including athletic participation, coaching, and administration. Even with the passage of Title IX, however, much work still remains to be done toward achieving the goal of gender equality.

Title IX regulations require that academic institutions must comply with at least one of the following three part test criteria:

Part One: Substantial Proportionality. This part of the test is satisfied when participation opportunities for men and women are "substantially proportionate" to their respective undergraduate enrollments.

Part Two: History and Continuing Practice. This part of the test is satisfied when an institution has a history and continuing practice of program expansion that is responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex (typically female).

Part Three: Effectively Accommodating Interests and Abilities. This part of the test is satisfied when an institution is meeting the interests and abilities of its female students even where there are disproportionately fewer females than males participating in sports.

One of the arguments against “substantial proportionality” is that in order to afford women more opportunities, men must forfeit some of theirs. In 2008, female enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities is nearing 65% as compared to just over 35% for men. However, it is still a common perception that men are not only more likely to participate in sports than women, it is more appropriate and attractive to sports fans that they should. This attitude is even more prevalent on the coaching and administrative levels of intercollegiate sport.

Prior to the enactment of Title IX , there were only 2.5 women’s teams per school (as of 1970) and 16,000 female college athletes (as of 1968). In 2008, those numbers have grown to 8.65 teams per school (9101 total teams) and over 180,000 female college athletes. The Acosta/Carpenter Study 2008 ( offers five factors contributing to the huge increase in participation: 1) second generation of Title IX beneficiaries’ participation, 2) lawsuits supportive of Title IX, 3) societal acceptance of females as athletes, 4) improved and increased media coverage, and 5)advocacy efforts of individuals and organizations.

Coaching has taken a different direction in its representations of women. In 1972, more than 90% of women’s teams were coached by females. In 2008, that percentage has bottomed out at 42.8%--the lowest in history with the exception of 2006 at 42.4%. Of all collegiate coaching jobs, women represent only one out of five coaches at 20.6%. While there are no definitive reasons for this disparity, the following considerations could be made: 1) coaching is still viewed as a male domain, 2) lower pay for women coupled with higher levels of harassment, and/or 3) male athletic directors recruit male coaches more aggressively.

In the areas of administration, women represent 21.3% of all athletic directors (the highest in 27 years) while 11.6% of athletic programs have no females in their administrative structures. While the great majority of institutions have athletic training, women only represent 1 out of 4 head athletic trainers. Female sports information directors only comprise 11.3% of all available positions.

While women are enjoying the highest levels of participation and employment in intercollegiate sport history since the passage of Title IX, major gaps still exist with more work to be done. It would seem that as the numbers of female athletes increase, women will expect to be represented in coaching and administrative positions in the very near future. The pursuit of advanced degrees, practical work experience, and high achievement is the key to continued progress for women in intercollegiate sport.

More next time...

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