Tag Archives: Athletics

ALERT: ATHLETIC EQUITY REPORTING LAW UNDER ATTACK IN HARRISBURG!

Just last week, the first annual athletic gender equity reports were due from public secondary schools under a new state law that passed on June 30, 2012.  The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act (or Act 82 Article XVI-C) requires secondary schools to provide annual, publicly released reports containing information about school-sponsored athletic programs in order to improve schools’ compliance with Title IX and work towards achieving gender equality.

Sadly, efforts are currently underway in the state legislature to interfere with this law before the first reports are even publicly released.  On Tuesday, October 22, House Bill 1734 will be considered by the House Education Committee.  House Bill 1734 would repeal several crucial provisions of this important disclosure law.

  • HB 1734 would eliminate the requirement that schools report the      total value of booster club purchases for each team. (Significantly, this portion of the reporting law does not even take effect until next year.)  Some schools blame the inequality of their athletic programs on booster clubs, but in fact, schools are responsible for ensuring that boys and      girls have equal opportunities and experiences. HB 1734 would allow schools to remove from their annual reporting the privately raised money being poured into boys’ teams.
  • HB 1734 would repeal the requirement that, for the first year only, schools include the dates when each team was established. This      easily available information shows whether schools have a history and continuing practice of expanding the girls’ athletic program.
  • HB 1734 would sunset all reporting after just three years.

Passing HB 1734 virtually guarantees that parents and students will have to turn to other, more burdensome ways of learning about their schools’ compliance with state and federal gender equity laws.

The participation gap between boys and girls in interscholastic athletics is widening.  See Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports, Sharp Center & Women’s Sports Foundation, Oct. 2012.  Now is the wrong time to retreat from the mandate of equal opportunity and fair treatment for our girls.

What you can do:

  • Contact your state rep and urge him or her to vote NO on HB 1734 and stand up for gender equality.
  • Visit your local public high school’s website and see what its Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure report has to say.
  • Can’t find a report from your school? Contact your school’s Title IX officer and ask where you can get a copy of the report.
  • Can’t find your school’s Title IX officer? Call your school’s superintendent and ask who the Title IX officer is and how you can get a copy of the Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure report.
  • Not getting the information you are entitled to? Call the Women’s Law Project: 412-281-2892 or 215-928-9801.

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Gender Discrimination, Girls, PA Law, PA Legislature, Pennsylvania, Sex Discrimination, Sports, Title IX, Women's Law Project

Title IX Advocates Await Release of New Athletic Gender Equity Reports

Attorneys from the Women’s Law Project announced that the first annual athletic gender equity reports from public high schools, junior highs and middle schools are due today under a new state law that passed on June 30, 2012. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act, formally known as Act 82 Article XVI-C, requires secondary schools to publicly report basic information about school-sponsored athletics programs on an annual basis in order to improve schools’ compliance with Title IX and achieve gender equity.

“For more than 40 years, Title IX has required schools to treat girls equally,” said Terry Fromson, managing attorney of the Women’s Law Project. “Sadly, there is evidence that girls are still being excluded and shortchanged and have actually lost ground in recent years.”

Fromson explained that starting today and each year thereafter, Pennsylvania secondary schools (grades 7 through 12) will have to submit a form to the state Department of Education containing the following information, which must be publicly posted by November 1:

  • Number of students in each school by gender;
  • Listing by gender of each varsity, junior varsity and freshman athletic team, together with year when each team was established;
  • Number of team participants by gender;
  • The seasons during which each team competed;
  • Total value of contributions and purchases made on behalf of each team by booster clubs;
  • Expenditures for each team, including travel, uniforms, equipment and supplies, coach compensation, facilities, and athletic trainers;
  • Number of coaches and trainers per team;
  • Number of competitions per team;
  • Name of school’s Title IX officer.

To find and download the forms online, go to:

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/school%20services%20office/9153/disclosure%20of%20interscholastic%20athletic%20opportunities/1419362

The state legislation is modeled after the federal Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, which requires federally funded colleges and universities to publicly disclose similar information annually on an easily searchable website.

“The Women’s Law Project intends to look carefully at the new gender equity reports to ensure that parents and students know how their schools are treating them,” said Susan Frietsche, staff attorney in the Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office.

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Girls, PA Law, Sports, Title IX

Study Affirms Positive Effects of Athletic Participation for Girls & Young Women & the Need for Greater Equity

By Kaitlin Leskovac, WLP Summer Intern

A recent study conducted by Ernst and Young explores the correlation between women who hold executive positions at various companies and their previous athletic participation. Ernst and Young surveyed 821 senior managers and executives, of whom 40% were female. Of these female senior managers and executives, roughly 90 percent of them had previously played sports at some level. The report cautions, “correlation here doesn’t immediately imply causality,” however, “it is clear that sport can play a positive role in developing the leadership skills of female executives” and “that a sports-oriented background can be a useful tool for those women seeking to climb to the top.” These conclusions reinforce the positive effects of continued and increased participation in athletics by girls and young women.

As we strive for greater parity for women in executive and other leadership positions, it is important for girls and young women to have the opportunities, resources and environmental considerations encouraging them to participate in athletics. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania and nationwide, this is not always the case. Despite manifest evidence of the benefits of playing sports, studies in Pennsylvania show that girls between the ages of 6 and 17 consistently engage in less physical activity than boys.

WLP’s reporting on sex bias in school athletics finds that the principal deterrent of female athletic participation is gender norms, that is, social attitudes about femininity and expectations about how girls should behave. These findings echo Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s observations of the tendency to refer to young girls as bossy, instead of encouraging the development of leadership skills. Widely held social norms about appropriate feminine behavior for girls not only discourage athletic participation, but may influence the development of leadership skills and in turn, may affect how girls eventually fare on the ladder for executive positions in the corporate world and other sectors of society.

In addition to influential social norms, there are concrete disparities in resources and opportunities in athletic programming in schools, at the secondary and collegiate levels. Today, women compose over 50 percent of the undergraduate population at universities nationwide, but only have roughly 43 percent of athletic opportunities available to them on campuses. WLP’s report on sex bias in school athletics finds that female college athletes receive far less than male athletes in scholarship and recruiting money, and often have inferior facilities relative to male athletes. WLP’s report demonstrates that Pennsylvania high schools similarly fail to provide equal opportunity to female students. For example, in the 2010-2011 school year, PA schools provided 170,630 athletic opportunities to boys while providing only 146,057 opportunities to girls.

The underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in all sectors of society stems from pervasive sex bias and unequal treatment. To move forward, it is essential that girls have equal opportunity to develop leadership skills. Ernst and Young’s study notes growing reliance by companies and organizations on team-based approaches to address complex issues, underscoring the increasing value in the workplace of prior team experience. The important correlation between prior athletic participation and women holding executive positions should not be overlooked, and should inform school policies that provide for equal opportunity for female participation in athletic activities.

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Education, Gender Discrimination, Sex Discrimination, Sports, Title IX, Women Leaders, Women's Law Project, working women

Title IX requirements not burdensome

By Terry L. Fromson, WLP Managing Attorney

On June 19, 2013, the Northwestern Lehigh School District Board of Directors adopted a resolution that would keep basic information from parents and students about the sports programs their tax dollars support.

The resolution also revealed shocking ignorance about Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including in school athletic programs.  Resolving to support the repeal of a law adopted last year by the Pennsylvania Legislature that requires public high schools, junior highs, and middle schools to fill out a reporting form once a year showing how schools are doing in achieving gender equity in their athletic programs, the Board resolution incredulously states that “the provisions of Title IX, which is federal law, are not applicable to local school districts.”

To the contrary, Title IX applies to any educational program that receives any federal financial assistance.  There are few, if any, schools that don’t receive any federal funding.  Title IX requires our schools to provide equal athletic opportunities and treatment to girls. Adopted 41 years ago this month, Title IX required schools to become compliant within three years.  Yet, many schools have not only failed to achieve equality in their sports programs, but overall, conditions have actually worsened for girls.

Last year’s passage of the reporting law was a victory for girls who want to participate in school athletics in Pennsylvania and for their parents who expect equal opportunity for their daughters in school. It simply provides the taxpaying public with knowledge about whether their local schools are in compliance with or in violation of Title IX.   The law is not burdensome.  The information it asks schools to share is in their possession and is already reportable on a request by request basis under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law.  Compiling one report each year, a task estimated to take no more than six hours, will consume less time and effort than responding to multiple requests throughout the year.  This small investment of time is more than reasonable to ensure female athletes in Pennsylvania’s schools are provided with the athletic opportunities required by law.

At this same meeting, the Northwestern Lehigh School Board voted to “move forward” with plans to seek private funding for improvements to the athletic stadium and track field at a projected cost of $2.1 million. Without more information, it cannot definitively be said whether these improvements will result in or contribute to an uneven playing field for girls in the Northwestern Lehigh School District.  However, the Board should know that female student athletes must be treated equally even if private funding is used to purchase extra perks for male student athletes.

******

Please also see recent commentary by Paul Carpenter of The Morning Call:  Title IX spotlights scholastic sports — for all students or just the Al Bundy types?

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Education, Equality, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Sex Discrimination, Sports, Title IX

Ms. Magazine Reports on the Women’s Law Project and Charlotte Murphy

Molly Duerig, WLP Intern

It’s been forty years since the passage of Title IX, a crucial piece of legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded educational programs.  Although we’ve come a long way, cases continue to pop up that prove we still have a good deal of work to do before we obtain gender equity.

Last month, Ms. Magazine featured a story about eleven-year-old Charlotte Murphy of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Charlotte was distraught last year when her public elementary school disbanded the girls’ basketball team for a season due to lack of funding.  Then she learned that the boys’ basketball team would continue to operate as normal that season.

Charlotte was upset about the school’s decision.  However, unlike most people, she chose to speak up and call attention to the school district’s mistake.  She wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, Dr. Linda Lane, explaining that her school violated Title IX and asking for a meeting to discuss the situation.  Senior Staff Attorney Susan Frietsche of the WLP Pittsburgh office prepared Charlotte for the meeting.  Charlotte’s tenacity and her collaboration with the WLP resulted in a new policy that permits elementary schools in the Pittsburgh Public School District to sponsor a boys’ basketball team only if they also sponsor one for girls. The policy also requires equal treatment for both teams.

Charlotte won her battle and is once again able to play basketball at her school.  This year, there were girls’ basketball teams at 14 elementary schools, up from 3 in previous years.  While Charlotte and her team didn’t win, she was grateful to be given the chance to play just like her male peers.  As Erin Buzuvis, Western New England University law professor and Title IX expert, explained,

If the last 40 years are any indication, Title IX’s success is due to the eternal vigilance of the law’s supporters, who continue to defend it through the political process and in the courts. This vigilance must continue in order for the law to address persistent sex discrimination, and to guard against unwarranted sex segregation.

On the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, WLP looks forward to future successes for gender equity.  We congratulate Charlotte Murphy for her spirited advocacy!

Visit our website to see a video of Charlotte discussing why she chose to speak up and why she thinks Title IX is so important.

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Filed under Athletic Equity, Equality, Gender Discrimination, Pittsburgh, Title IX

Victory for Women’s Athletic Equity: PA High School Disclosure Bill Passes

During the closing hours of last week’s state budget frenzy, 40 years after the enactment of Title IX, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed its own landmark legislation to advance gender equality in educational opportunities. The Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Bill passed the state House of Representatives on June 30 as part of an omnibus school code bill (HB 1901) which the Governor has approved. This provision, strongly supported by the Women’s Law Project and many other advocates for women’s equality, including the Women & Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, will require all public high schools, middle schools, and junior high schools in Pennsylvania to report annually the number of athletic opportunities they provide to girls and boys, broken down further by race/ethnicity, as well as other data that may reflect the quality of the athletic programming offered. Pennsylvania will join Kentucky, Georgia, and New Mexico in requiring secondary schools to disclose basic information that will help inform students, parents, and community members of whether their schools may be in violation of Title IX.

Since Title IX was enacted in 1972, the number of girls participating in interscholastic high school athletics has increased significantly. However, a large gap remains between the number of high school girls and the number of high school boys playing competitive sports. In recent years, this gap has widened. There are now approximately 1.3 million more boys than girls participating in high school sports. This imbalance is greatest in urban schools, where 73% of the boys but only 45% of the girls in grades 3-12 are involved in athletics, a disparity that affects girls of color most significantly. And even where girls have the opportunity to play, in many districts, they receive inferior equipment, uniforms, fields, facilities, coaching, publicity, scheduling, and transportation compared to the boys.

Currently, female students who suspect that their school’s athletic program is treating  them unfairly must either confront school officials before they have all the facts, or file a Right-To-Know request, which can sometimes lead to administrative battles and time-consuming appeals. Beginning in 2013, Pennsylvanians will only have to visit the Department of Education’s website to obtain the basic information that is key to grassroots reform efforts.

At stake is far more than just the fun and friendship that team sports create. Participation in organized sports improves leadership skills, opens doors for college scholarships, and correlates with better grades, a better chance of graduating and getting a job, and lower rates of depression, drug and alcohol use, smoking, teen pregnancy, and obesity. In fact, over 80% of female executives report that they played a team sport in their youth.

For more information on athletic inequalities in Pennsylvania, see WLP’s publication:  Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women (2012);  2009-2010 Title IX Audit of the Pittsburgh Public Schools ;  Are Schools Giving Female Athletes a Sporting Chance? A Guide to Gender Equity in Athletics in Pennsylvania Schools (2009); and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics: Where Does Pennsylvania Stand? (2005)

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Filed under Athletic Equity, PA Legislature, Title IX

Report Released on the 40th Anniversary of Title IX

Nikki Ditto, WLP Intern

As a member of The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE), the Women’s Law Project is pleased to share NCWGE’s report celebrating Title IX’s 40th anniversary.  NCWGE is a non-profit made up of over 50 organizations dedicated to ensuring equality in education. The report gives a comprehensive look at all that has been accomplished since Title IX was adopted and all that remains to be done. The goal of the report is to “help give educators, parents, students, and lawmakers a better understanding of Title IX’s impact and challenges that remain in many areas of education.”

The report covers Title IX’s role in school athletics, as well as other crucial issues. It outlines six main areas that the act affects and impacts including “athletics; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); career and techni­cal education; sexual harassment; single-sex education; and the rights of pregnant and parenting students.” The report offers an analysis of the change that has occurred in each area over the last 40 years, and also provides suggestions and solutions for addressing the equality gaps that remain.

Title IX was passed as a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972. It states that,

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 receiving federal financial assistance.

Title IX is best known for its impact on high school and collegiate athletics. It has helped to open doors for female athletes to equal participation opportunities and to equal treatment of male and female teams. However, its reach and importance extends far beyond sports. Title IX impacts the education system as a whole and is meant to ensure equality in all areas of education.

The report found that while much has improved in terms of gender equity in education since 1972, much of Title IX is not fully implemented or enforced.  For example, pregnant and parenting students still struggle to have full and equal access to education, and their needs are often ignored (pg.55). Girls are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields (17). Sexual harassment is still prevalent across all grade levels, and often keeps students from fully participating in school (37). Many public schools still have sex-segregated classrooms based on faulty scientific research and stereotypes (47) Thankfully, Title IX provides students with a legal basis for challenging the inequalities they continue to face.

The Women’s Law Project has played a role in helping to enforce Title IX throughout the state of Pennsylvania. We supported more stringent and regulated handling of sexual assault cases at Penn State. We have also worked against discriminatory single-sex programs and schools in order to ensure equal access to educational opportunities for children. The WLP has fought for the rights of female students and athletes in a number of cases thanks to the passage of Title IX.

Through this report, the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education “seeks to inform the continued search for policies that will promote equal educational opportunity in all of these areas,” (2). The report lays out what must be done to establish truly equal access and to continue to improve the situation for women and girls in schools across the country. NCWGE suggests five overarching areas that must be addressed, including “awareness, enforcement, transparency, coordination, and funding” (6), as well as policy changes that effect each area of interest.

On the 40th anniversary of Title IX, it is important to recognize the ways in which Title IX has shaped the last 40 years and how it can be better implemented in the future. Title IX’s passage did not change the world or America’s public education system overnight, and there is still work to be done. We are happy to celebrate this anniversary by looking at how we can continue to make public schools more equal for all students.

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Filed under Education, Equality, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Single-Sex Schools, Title IX, Uncategorized

At Two-Year Colleges, Less Scrutiny Equals Less Athletic Equality

Community colleges face unique problems in providing athletic opportunities to their students. As the Title IX blog points out, two year colleges generally have a “non-traditional student body, of which women make up the majority–often a large majority, [which] has lead many community colleges to believe they cannot possibly comply [with Title IX]. Additionally, community colleges are facing the same–if not worse–budget issues as four-year institutions.” However, the blog rightly notes that these challenges do “not mean they are exempt from providing their female students with opportunities to play sports.” Yet the New York Times revealed that many community colleges, due to lack of scrutiny about their compliance with Title IX, have significantly more athletic opportunities for their male students than for their female students.

Los Angeles Southwest College is one of the community colleges that do not offer enough athletic opportunities for women. Women make up two-thirds of their student body but only a quarter of their athletes. The college suspended their track team this year which left women at the school with basketball as the only sport they have the opportunity to participate in. Henry Washington, the school’s athletic director and head football coach said that fewer options for women are available because fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at the college. He “acknowledges that his program is most likely violating federal law by failing to offer enough roster spots to women. But he said many of the female students are also juggling jobs and child care, and do not have time to play sports.”

But federal statistics reveal that men at community colleges face the same challenges that women do. Indeed, “the men work, too, and tend not to be any younger. And yet the men, despite similar hardships or responsibilities, still manage to play sports in significant numbers.” Karen Sykes, a former president of the National Junior College Athletic Association doubts that many community colleges are putting in a genuine effort to give women more athletic opportunities. She told the New York Times that two-year colleges “were willing to make a halfhearted effort and then willing to accept the consequences.” Frank Harris III, an assistant professor at San Diego State University said, “If institutions and community colleges wanted to really provide those opportunities to women, and if there was some value in that from their perspective, they would find a way to do it.”

By denying women equal athletic opportunities, two-year colleges are neglecting to provide equal opportunity to reap the positive effects that research has suggested participation in sports creates. These effects include better health, improved self-esteem, better grades, and better jobs after graduation.

Pensacola State College in Florida is an example of how a community college, despite the unique challenges it faces, may create equal athletic opportunities. The school has recently had to deal with budget cuts and a population that is “supposedly less eager to play sports” because they “tend to be older” and “overwhelmingly female.”  Yet, they recruit throughout the state for talented female athletes and invest one million dollars a year in their athletics program. Bill Hamilton, the Pensacola athletic director, told the Times that “success had not come without struggle. But abiding by the law is a priority. ‘We don’t do things around here because it’s easy,’ he said. ‘We do things because it’s right.’”

Community colleges need to be scrutinized to ensure that they are not violating Title IX. As Jaime Lester, an assistant professor at George Mason University who has studied gender issues at community colleges said, “It’s crucial to hold these democratic institutions — these bastions of people’s colleges — up to that level of scrutiny…If we don’t hold them up, why should we hold anyone else up?”

Learn more about the Women’s Law Project’s efforts to ensure equity in athletic programs.

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Filed under Equality, Gender Discrimination, Sports, The New York Times, Title IX

What We’re Reading: Title IX

Title IX, a law which requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding passed 39 years ago. However its promise has not been completely  fulfilled, even four decades later.  Here are some of the stories we have been reading recently which got us thinking about how far we have come in achieving equality in education and how far we still have to go.

  • Parents of competitive cheerleaders at Lugoff-Elgin High School in Camden, South Carolina, are requesting a formal investigation of Title IX compliance after they say school administrators refused to pay for new uniforms.
  • Some universities (including Duke, Wake Forest, and Appalachian State) listed men who assist in practices of women’s teams as members of the teams in a federal study. It is probably not the case that any of these schools did this to better fulfill Title IX requirements since, according to the article, “counting the men as part of the women’s team didn’t significantly change any of the three schools’ Title IX numbers.” However, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a law professor at Florida Coastal and the senior director of advocacy at the Women’s Sports Foundation says that another school may use this loophole to give “‘the appearance of an untrained eye that the school would not have to add another women’s team (to be in compliance) with Title IX.’”
  • Kristine Newhall addresses critiques of Title IX which argue that it creates reverse discrimination: “It seems difficult to argue that Title IX is creating reverse discrimination when men have always had and continue to have more opportunities.”
  • The University of Montana, “in danger of falling out of compliance with Title IX,” started a softball program.
  • Sue Estler, an Associate Professor Emirita of higher education at the University of Maine who served 11 years as the Director of Equal Opportunity and Title Coordinator reflects  on the history of Title IX and the continuing struggle to ensure that schools are in compliance with it.
  • A federal appeals court will hear a case alleging that Indiana schools discriminated against girls’ basketball teams by scheduling girls’ games for weeknights and boys’ games for Friday and Saturday nights.

To find out about the Women’s Law Project’s Title IX-related advocacy, click here. Image via.

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Filed under Education, Equality, Sports, Title IX, What We're Reading

ESPN Discusses Title IX for Women’s History Month

To celebrate Women’s History Month, ESPN is discussing Title IX in a three-part video series. The series features female sports writers and coaches talking about the impact of Title IX, the pros and cons that have developed from it, its influence on their own careers, and its impact on gender notions. Johnette Howard, a sports writer for ESPN New York, says:

It changed the way that boys and men looked at girls and women and what was possible for them. There was this new confidence you were showing and you were doing something that men valued or that boys valued that you played with everyday, and so when you show you’re good at something, maybe when they’re going down the street to play, they’re like, “Hey, come on, let’s go!” And you get this whole deeper friendship and deeper experience in life.

Along with discussing the pros of Title IX, the women talk about the negative connotations the legislation has been saddled with. They highlight the oft-repeated notion that Title IX caused men’s sports to be dropped, though program elimination is usually due to disinterest and/or athletic department administrations’ decisions about fund allocations for sports.  They also note that while men’s programs are dropped, so are women’s programs. Melissa Isaacson, an ESPN Chicago columnist, says:

It’s really unfortunate because it’s not just a misconception. I think it’s brought about a real resentment and an unfair resentment of Title IX for things like wrestling and gymnastics and some of the minor men’s sports being eliminated, when in fact, women’s minor sports are being eliminated at the same time. Participation was down. But everything for awhile there seemed to get blamed on Title IX.

Jemele Hill, another ESPN columnist, chimed in:

What they don’t often talk about in those controversies is how one of the reasons that the men’s sports were eliminated is because the big revenue male sports, such as football, overspend. And that has a lot to do with why those sports are eliminated and I think that Title IX and women’s sports just became an easy target.

The panelists also highlight that even thirty-nine years after the passage of Title IX, women still face great disparities when it comes to sports.

When you look at the statistics for salary, participation, teams, revenue, money spent, or anything women still trail significantly in every category.

We thank ESPN for celebrating Women’s History Month, and bringing these amazing women on to talk about Title IX. We hope their words can bring to the light the work still needed to be done.

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Filed under Equality, Sports, Title IX