Leveling the Playing Field of Gender Equity

Leveling the Playing Field of Gender Equity

When I was in high school, my gym teacher, Mrs. Maloney, instructed me to “referee” basketball during our class so that should give you little insight into my athletic prowess…and my vertical reach. Just the same, I’ve always been a huge fan of Title IX, which turns 40 this year. Known primarily for leveling the “playing field” in athletics, Title IX has delivered a Claressa Shield’s style punch of gender equity in many other ways, too.

Claressa, by the way, is the 17 year-old 2012 Olympic Women’s Boxing gold medalist. She’s from Flint, Michigan, where poverty and community breakdown have taken a tremendous toll on many young people, including her brother who’s currently in jail. While preparing to compete again in Rio, she’s on track to graduate high school next spring. Despite all her travels, she’s an honors student who maintains a B or better average – and wants to be a photojournalist. That’s certainly Title IX in action.

Thanks to the good people at the Southern Poverty Law Center who publish Teaching Tolerance, I was able to read about the myriad ways in which Title IX has made the world a far better place for all, thanks in part to this historical policy declaration in 1972:

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 received federal financial assistance.

Like most 40 year-olds, Title IX deserves lots of credit and extra encouragement to keep fighting the good fight. So to celebrate it, here are IX outstanding ways it’s bringing us closer to gender equity:

I. Colleges and universities must provide equal consideration to both sexes in admissions and financial aid.

II. Schools must treat male and female students equally in career and technical education – including encouraging girls and women into non-traditional careers.

III. Schools can no longer force pregnant students from classes or school-sponsored activities.

IV. Teachers and administrators at the primary, secondary and college levels are protected against sex discrimination in hiring, promotion and salary considerations.

V. Single-sex programs must not perpetuate stereotypes about girls’ interests or abilities.

VI. Girls and women must be allowed and encouraged to take upper-level math and science courses.

VII. Students receive protection against sexual harassment from teachers, staff or other students.

VIII. Standardized tests questions must be designed free of gender bias.

IX. Both genders must have equal access to computers and technology.

If you’re like me, you’re feeling pretty good about this list. I’m also pleased to learn that more than half of medical and law students today are women. And it gave me a new perspective to answer my ten year-old son who asked me recently “When did men and women decide they wanted to be equal?” Of course, we’re not fully there yet, but in some way I feel like I can answer, “Well, 1972 was a pretty important year.”

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