40th Anniversary of Title IX

This week, our nation celebrates the 40th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which ensured that any educational program receiving federal funding could not discriminate on the basis of gender. Many people relate Title IX to athletics only, for it markedly increased athletic opportunities for females. However, it was a much broader change to our nation, providing equal opportunities for females in the classroom too.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden spoke with the crew of NEEMO 16 while on their underwater mission, which included one of our own Women@NASA, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger.  During their chat, they both celebrated the impact of Title IX, thanking those who trailblazed the path to equality.  While Administrator Bolden thought of his own granddaughters and their freedom to choose their own professions, Metcalf-Lindenburger echoed his sentiment when she said, “My daughter, who is 5, knows no boundaries…I am thankful for those who led before…”.   

In some fields, the advances women have made since Title IX are obvious.   There has been a large increase of women in the legal and medical fields since the enactment.  While the issue largely focused on discrimination against females, in some fields, such as teaching and nursing, men benefitted from Title IX too.  In other areas, there still exist gender gaps such as the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The National Science Foundation has data showing that in 2009 women earned 57 percent of all bachelor degrees, but they only accounted for 18 percent of engineering undergraduate degrees.  The topic being addressed at many federal agencies and private organizations is to understand the root of this gender gap.  Is it a lack of opportunity?  Is it a conscious choice when weighing out work-life balance?  If the latter is true, what steps can make work-life more flexible so that women pursue STEM careers?

While the issues have changed since 1972, Title IX was the crux. It was the foundation and the necessary action to ensure future generations could reap equality in opportunity.  While there remain many steps left to take, the path would certainly be different if it were not for this critical action.

 Happy anniversary, Title IX!