Education

Title IX Celebrates 50 Years of Progress in Gender Equity

Title IX, an appendage of the 1972 Education Amendments, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded educational programs and institutions, has been pivotal for gender equity progress. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) published a report this month detailing the successes and future applications of Title IX. 

Prior to the amendment, women were grossly underrepresented in undergraduate and postsecondary education degrees. In 1971, they represented around 8.6 and 9.2 percent of law and medical school graduates, respectively. The percentages have grown to 52.5 and 55.5, thanks in large part to Title IX initiatives. 

One theme consistent throughout the report was that Title VII—which protects employees from sex-based discrimination—is more regularly enforced than Title IX. In their 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County decision, the Supreme Court ruled that employees must be treated fairly regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. The NCWGE recommends that the scope of this decision expands to all federally funded agencies, especially with attacks against LGBTQI+ students on the rise. “Student plaintiffs,” the report says, “face far more stringent standards under Title IX than employee plaintiffs do under Title VII.”

When Dr. Bernice Sandler was denied a full-time faculty position because she had “come on too strong for a woman” in 1969, she hit back. Under Executive Order 11246—recently amended to include sex as an unjustifiable reason for discrimination—Sandler filed 250 sex discrimination suits against academic institutions. The National Organization for Women filed 100 more. Congress passed Title IX three years later, a law co-authored by Representative Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii) and Senator Birch Bayh (D-Ind.).

Among its many policy recommendations, the NCWGE emphasizes the intersectionality of discrimination. Multiple laws—including Title VI, Title IX, and sections of the ADA—can be applied to maintain inclusivity and equity within educational spaces. 

“Remind all stakeholders that preventing and remedying discrimination is a compelling government interest,” the NCWGE suggested to the Department of Education. “Any exceptions, including religious exemptions, must be narrowly construed so that federal funding is not used to subsidize discrimination, including against LGBTQI+ individuals.”

Sources:

American Bar Association; Association of American Medical Colleges; Legal Information Institute; National Association for Law Placement; National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education; “Too Strong For a Woman”—The Five Words that Created Title IX

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