TITLE IX: Striving for Gender Equity in Athletics

by Roberta McCutcheon



  • Students will examine primary documents and secondary sources to analyze gender equity during the last quarter of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century.
  • Students will be able to identify the major social and economic trends of the second half of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century.
  • Students will be able to examine the effects of activism in the twentieth century and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the passage of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972.


On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the following into law.

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” –Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972.

This was a monumental Act. Every educational program—be it academic or athletic—that was supported with federal funding was to be made available to women as well as men. No longer could admissions to schools and inclusion in school programs be denied or restricted based on sex. Later the scope of the law included hiring and treatment in educational professions. Although almost forty years later the results of Title IX are still less than perfect, educational opportunities for females of all ages expanded greatly following Title IX and subsequent amendments. The following statistics show some of the early effects.

  • In 1994, women received 38% of medical degrees, compared with 9% in 1972.
  • In 1994, women earned 43% of law degrees, compared with 7% in 1972.
  • In 1994, 44% of all doctoral degrees to U.S. citizens went to women, up from 25% in 1977.

Opposition to the federal law was immediate and extreme. This was particularly true in athletic departments. The law brought into question the traditions of a nation regarding education, athletics, sports, and women. The battle to preserve those traditions was fought at every level of education, on social and financial bases. This lesson will focus on that history; it provides an analysis of the history of Title IX and women in athletics.


Student Activity One

It is important to understand the historic context in which Title IX in 1972 was passed. Divide the class into three groups. Assign each group one of the following topics:

  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • The Women’s Movement
  • The Great Society

Have each group share its research on the assigned topic with the class.

The following sites will be helpful:

Student Activity Two

Select four panelists to present essential information about the law. Select a student moderator as well.

The panelists will prepare an opening speech on one of the following assigned topics regarding Title IX:

  • History of its passage
  • Enforcement and tests of compliance
  • Opposition
  • Amendments to the law
  • Effects
  • Respond to questions about Title IX and the contents of their presentation.

The moderator will:

  • Introduce the issue for the panel discussion.
  • Prepare questions for panelists.
  • Direct questions from the audience (all non-panelist members of the class) to the panelists.

Student Activity Three

Divide class into the following four groups. Each group will participate in a forum discussion on Title IX from their assigned perspective. The task for the forum is to determine the future of Title IX. Each group should be prepared to take and argue a clear position regarding Title IX in the twenty-first century. The forum will also need a moderator to maintain the flow of the discussion.


  • Female Athletes
  • Male Athletes
  • Athletic Departments (Post-Secondary)
  • Financial Aid Committees (Post-Secondary)

Extension Activity

To what extent did legislation such as Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 change the social and economic status of women as well as assumptions about women in the United States?

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