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Obama Administration Commemorates 40 Years of Increasing Equality and Opportunity for Women in Education and Athletics

Barack Obama's White House Presidential Office (D) posted a Press Release on June 20, 2012 | 1:18 pm - Original Item - Comments (View)

On June 23, 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was signed into law, requiring equal access to academic and athletic opportunities for all students, regardless of gender, in all of the education programs and activities of a school, university, or other entity receiving federal financial assistance. At a time when many universities barred the admission of women and when female sports teams were scarce, Title IX marked a momentous shift for women’s equality in classrooms, on playing fields, and in communities throughout our nation. In the 40 years since that historic day, Title IX has promoted equal access for women at tens of thousands of elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, libraries, museums, vocational schools, and correctional facilities throughout the U.S., while prohibiting sex discrimination in employment at all such institutions.  Today, every agency in the federal government that offers federal financial assistance is a guardian and guarantor of Title IX.

This commonsense rule has dramatically reshaped opportunities available to women across the country. For example, since Title IX was passed, the number of female college athletes has increased from 30,000 to 190,000, the number of female high school athletes has grown ten-fold, and the proportion of female professors in science and mathematics has more than doubled. A recent study concluded that an increase in female sports participation leads in later years to an increase in women’s labor force participation down the road and greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly in high-skill, high-wage fields.

Since coming into office, President Obama and his Administration have worked to advance Title IX compliance to ensure that all individuals enjoy the equality of opportunity that the law provides. The Administration continuously strives to provide guidance and support to state and local governments and educational institutions to bolster equal access to educational opportunities in a full range of academic subjects, including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); equal resources in athletic pursuits; and an academic environment free of sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment and violence.  With this celebration of 40 years of successes under Title IX, the President reaffirms his commitment to further advancing a new era of equal opportunity and gender equity for generations to come.

Today, the White House Council on Women and Girls is hosting an event to celebrate the opportunities that Title IX has afforded women and girls across America in the 40 years since its enactment. The event will be livestreamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live starting at 2 pm and the twitter hashtag is #WHtitleIX. The program features government officials and leaders in the field to discuss the past, present, and future of this landmark legislation. Government officials include: Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama & Chair of the Council on Women & Girls, Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and former Senator Birch Bayh, who co-authored the legislation. Highlights of the event include two panel discussions. The first features a conversation with Billie Jean King, WNBA President Laurel J. Richie and others on "Intergenerational Views on the Impact of Title IX in Athletics" moderated by Bonnie Bernstein, ESPN broadcaster and former All-American gymnast. Later, Benita Fitzgerald-Mosely, Olympian, U.S. Track & Field, Engineer, and Chief of Sport Performance for USA Track & Field will moderate a panel on "Advancing Our Commitment to Title IX in Education" which will include Astronaut Mae Jemison, Jared L. Cohon, President of Carnegie Mellon and Gabriela Farfan, a winner of Intel's Science Talent Search, among others. The audience is comprised of leaders from the education, athletic, and the women’s rights communities as well as high school girls from the area.

At today’s event, the White House will make the following announcements:

Federal Agencies will commit to developing common guidance to colleges and universities on responsibilities and best practices for Title IX compliance: Building on the success of previous interagency collaboration efforts on Title IX and STEM, the Department of Education will lead an initiative with the Department of Justice and science & technology agencies (including the Department of Energy, NASA, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Health and Human Services) to develop common guidance for grant recipient institutions to comply with Title IX. These activities will consolidate agency expertise – which currently differs from agency to agency – to help institutions better understand their compliance obligations and ways to improve access and outreach to women and girls in STEM fields.

Department of Education will revise Title IX Technical Assistance to K-12 and post-secondary institutions to explicitly address STEM: The Department of Education will announce the revision of its Title IX Technical Assistance presentation, made available nationwide to state and local education agencies across the country, to include information on how institutions receiving federal financial assistance are also required to ensure equal access to educational programs and resources in STEM fields.

Department of Education will broaden data collection to provide new gender-based academic analyses: In 2011, the Department of Education released a first-of-its-kind national data tool for analyzing student participation, achievement, and educational experiences through the transformed Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), a survey of the nation's public school districts and elementary and secondary schools that provides information on student enrollment, educational programs, and services disaggregated by race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency status, and disability. With hundreds of data points collected through mandated school reporting, the publically-available CRDC database allows for powerful analyses of topics such as school discipline rates, retention by grade, and participation in advanced math and science courses broken down by gender. At the time of the Title IX anniversary, the Department has published a new gender-based analysis of the CRDC data, taking stock of the gender gaps across K-12 education. Moving forward, the Department of Education will expand the 2011-12 CRDC dataset from 85% of U.S. students to include 100% of all U.S. public school students nationwide, becoming a universal collection of data representing all schools.

Building on Title IX Success

Since 2009, the Obama Administration has helped students and education workers understand their rights under Title IX and has worked with academic institutions to develop environments that encourage equal opportunities for all. Some of the Administration’s accomplishments include:

Identifying promising practices for increasing access and opportunity for women in STEM: Though more women than men graduate from college with bachelor’s degrees, women’s participation in STEM fields is disproportionately low, especially in fields like engineering.  To help further participation in STEM fields, in 2009 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) produced a report entitled Title IX & STEM: Promising Practices for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This document, and the subsequent 2012 NASA toolkit, Title IX and STEM: A Guide for Conducting Self-Evaluations, point to promising strategies identified by STEM departments across the country that hold great potential to increase women’s access and participation in high-skill, high-demand STEM fields that drive American innovation.

Reinforcing Title IX’s role in preventing sexual harassment and violence: According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly one in five college women will be the victim of a sexual assault.  To combat this problem, in 2011, the Department of Education issued comprehensive guidance to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual assault.

Removing barriers to women’s academic achievement by ensuring Title IX compliance across federal agencies: Multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Department of Energy and NASA, are actively engaged in reviews and investigations to ensure that educational institutions are in compliance with Title IX. Their work includes offering feedback to institutions on how to improve policies that adversely affect women’s participation in these fields. Since the beginning of the Administration, the Department of Education alone has received nearly 3,000 Title IX-related complaints—more than ever before in any previous three-year period—and launched more than 35 system-wide proactive investigations that collectively address a broad range of Title IX-related issues in institutions across the nation.

Integrating Title IX into broader women focused efforts: To address some of the career challenges that may inhibit women’s pursuit of careers in STEM, the National Science Foundation (NSF) included Title IX compliance and assistance as part of its institution-wide Career-Life Balance Initiative, launched in September 2011. As a part of this effort, NSF has made Title IX and gender equity a priority in its on-site review process for large facilities.

Stepping Up Title IX Enforcement: Over the past three years, the Departments of Justice and Education have doubled-down on their efforts to enforce Title IX’s requirements.  The Departments are working vigorously to ensure safe and non-discriminatory school environments—and has secured significant victories along the way.  For example, this past summer, the Department of Justice launched an investigation of a school district following a complaint of sex-based harassment that resulted in comprehensive reform of the district’s sex-based harassment policies and practices. In addition the Department of Education has launched 11 proactive systemic investigations into issues of sexual violence and harassment. The Department of Justice has also helped advance gender equity in athletics.  In 2009, when a state high school athletic association decided to make cuts to competition opportunities in a way that exempted nine times as many boys as girls from those cuts, the Department joined advocates representing female athletes by filing an amicus brief arguing that the decision violated Title IX and the Constitution.  Within one day of receiving the brief, the association rescinded its decision, sparing both girls and boys from these cuts.

Ensuring Equal Opportunity in Athletics: Over the last three years, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has initiated 17 proactive investigations of possible systemic Title IX violations in athletics programs and obtained more than 100 robust resolution agreements ensuring that female students have an equal opportunity to participate in sports across the country. It also released policy guidance reversing a shift made during the prior Administration and reinstating more meaningful requirements for how to assess whether schools and colleges are providing more equitable athletic opportunities to students of both genders as required by Title IX. 

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