Title IX at 50: How it Changed Congress, Campuses and Sports

The enormous growth in the number of women in high school and college athletics – more than three million today, from 300,000 in 1972 – led to the increasing professionalization of, and interest in, women’s sports, and the objects in the exhibition demonstrate that depth and growth: Billie Jean King’s tennis racket, the 1984 Olympic gold medal winner Mary Lou Retton’s gymnastics slipper, Serena Williams’ tennis dress, jerseys from professional women’s basketball and soccer teams and a basketball Barbie doll.

“My entire professional career has benefited from Title IX,” said Shelia Burrell, a two-time Olympian in the heptathlon and the head cross-country and track and field coach at San Diego State University. But entering UCLA on an athletic scholarship in 1990, she knew nothing about the law. “I only knew about it once. I graduated from college, made two Olympic teams and then tried to get a job,” she said. That’s when she saw how female coaches were hired on lower rungs than men and rarely promoted.

Nancy Lough, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, College of Education who teaches intercollegiate and professional sports management and has implemented Title IX in several states, says discrimination against women is still very much alive, but the difference is how women react to it. She pointed to a recent Tik Tok video that went viral during last year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament. The video focuses on the women’s weight “room” – one small stack of hand weights – compared to the men’s vast room with a huge variety of equipment. The NCAA later apologized for the inequities.

“Students today are not willing to put up with what my generation put up with,” said Ms. Lough, who was also a student athlete and coach. “We were the apologetic generation; we were just like, ‘Oh, thank you for anything that you will get us’; and we were just so grateful because we actually got to play sports. These kids today are absolutely not in that place. ”

Ms. Dunkle, Ms. Pino-Silva, Ms. Burrell and Ms. Lough were all sources for the museum’s exhibition. Ms. Dunkle, who wrote a 1974 report documenting discrimination against female athletes that became the basis for Title IX’s regulations on athletics, donated some 20 items, including a photo of herself lighting a candle on a cake during Title IX’s third anniversary celebration, on Capitol Hill in 1975

“The exhibition is a celebration of how we’ve come so far in terms of equal opportunities for female students and in education,” she said in a recent interview. “And it’s also a time to point a laser at the remaining issues because issues that we didn’t even contemplate back in the early 1970s have now taken center stage.”

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