Tag Archives: Girls

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

The Wage Gap Starts in Childhood

Aly Mance, WLP Intern

Parents do their best to be good role models for their children; and for generations, they have given their children chores to do in exchange for an allowance in order to teach them responsibility and work ethic.  Sadly though, at a very young age, their children are also learning firsthand about the gender wage gap.  According to a recent article in Salon, parents are inadvertently teaching their daughters that their work is worth less than that of their sons.

A 2006 study conducted by University of Michigan economists found that girls spent two more hours per week doing chores than boys in a study of 3,000 kids.  Boys are enjoying more leisure time than their sisters, an imbalance that continues into adulthood.  According to the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development, men “report spending more time in activities counted as leisure than women.”

Not only are boys spending less time weekly on chores than girls, they are also making more money when they do them.  Boys’ chores appear to be more profitable, and parents deem the work done by boys to be more valuable than the chores done by girls —demonstrated by the fact that boys make more money per week than girls while working 2 hours less per week.  Boys tend to be assigned jobs like mowing the lawn, taking the trash out, or shoveling snow from the driveway; whereas girls tend to do indoor chores such as washing the dishes, cleaning bedrooms, or doing the laundry.  Parents find the work that boys do outside of the home more important and valuable than the traditionally “feminine” chores that girls do within the home.

These ideas and attitudes are perpetuated into adulthood.  A study conducted by Andrew Healy and Neil Mahorta shows that men who grow up with sisters do less housework than their wives.  This suggests that the gender separated chore environment from their childhood permanently altered their conception of gender roles.  It continues to reinforce the centuries-old idea that women battle every day in the working world: women belong in the home.  By telling children that girls do the dishes while boys take out the trash and that girls sweep the floors while boys shovel the driveways, parents make it clear that girls belong in the home, while boys belong outside of it.  A woman can’t “do a man’s job,” and she will always be paid and valued less for doing the same or more work.  They make it clear to their children that a woman’s work will always carry less worth than a man’s.

So here’s what parents should be doing: equally divide up the chores and equally pay each child. The same way that chores can reinforce traditional gender roles, sexism, and society’s acceptance of the wage gap, they can be used to develop egalitarian attitudes towards gender.  Ask your daughters to mow the lawn and your sons to fold the towels.  It could help reshape society and end the idea of traditional gender roles that support the wage gap.

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Filed under Economic Justice, Equal pay, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Sexism, Wage Gap

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

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

ACLU Launches “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes” Campaign

Liz Weissert, WLP Intern

In May 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced the launch of their “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes” Campaign. To initiate this campaign, the ACLU sent letters to various public school districts across the United States including Florida, Maine, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama demanding that they “end single-sex programs that rely on and promote archaic and harmful sex stereotypes.”  In addition to sending these letters, the ACLU is investigating single-sex schooling programs in Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Massachusetts, Indiana, Idaho, and Illinois through the filing of public record requests. The ACLU states that, “single-sex programs are not only unfair; in many cases they are illegal.”

Single-sex education programs often rest on the misguided notion that boys and girls are neurologically different and thus have different learning styles.  There is no scientific basis for this theory, which rests on stereotypes about boys and girls. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education (NCWGE) found in their recent report Title IX at 40: Working to Ensure Gender Equity in Education that “many single-sex programs claiming a basis in research are in fact based on claims that amount to little more than repackaged sex stereotypes.” The NCWGE further concludes that “despite assertions to the contrary, separating students by sex has not been proven to improve educational outcomes.”

Indeed sex-segregation itself perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes.  In a Washington Post article, “The Case Against Single-Sex Schooling”, Rebecca Bigler and Lise Eliot discuss the harmful effects of some single-sex schooling programs:

Gender segregated classrooms are detrimental to children in several ways. First, research in developmental psychology has clearly shown that teachers’ labeling and segregating of social groups increases children’s stereotyping and prejudice. […] Classroom assignment based on gender teaches children that males and females have different types of intellects, and reinforces sexism in schools and the culture at large

The NCWGE report includes a full chapter on single-sex education which explores the “potentially harmful” aspects of single-sex education based on gender stereotypes. These single-sex classrooms can be detrimental to the learning of all students. As the NCWGE explains, “assuming, for instance, that boys need active, loud environments focused on abstract thinking skills and girls need quiet activities that emphasize concrete thinking makes it less likely that the classroom will meet the varying learning needs of all students.”

The Women’s Law Project (WLP) has long been involved in challenging unlawful single-sex education in Pennsylvania public schools.  In 1983, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA), WLP accomplished the admission of girls to Philadelphia’s prestigious Central High School, which had long been an all-boys school. Most recently in 2011, WLP, again with the ACLU-PA, successfully opposed Pittsburgh Public Schools’ experimentation with gender-segregated schooling at Westinghouse Academy. WLP joined an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief filed in a lawsuit challenging the implementation of single-sex classrooms in a Louisiana school district, in concert with the Education Law Center, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, and the ACLU-PA opposing the creation of a boys’ charter school in the Philadelphia School District, and objecting to the Philadelphia School District’s conversion of neighborhood schools in North Philadelphia to single sex schools.  

More information on the Women’s Law Project’s activities concerning single-sex schooling and gender discrimination in education can be found on our website.


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

New York Times Reports on Dating Violence in Young Teenagers

Nikki Ditto, WLP Intern

An article published last week in the New York Times addresses the problem of dating violence among young teenagers, including those who have not yet entered high school. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, teen dating violence remains a significant problem, and the behaviors can begin to appear in teens as young as eleven and twelve.  

Studies that emerged over a decade ago showed that the group most at risk for dating violence and sexual assault was girls age 16 to 24. This report helped to increase funding and prevalence of programs aimed to educate teenagers about healthy relationships. While these programs have made an impact, reports show that they may not be starting early enough to catch the dangerous behaviors before they start.

A study conducted in 2010 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation surveyed 1,430 seventh graders from eight middle schools across the country. The study found that three-quarters of the students had been in a relationship. One in three had already experienced psychological dating violence, and one in six had experienced physical violence.

Thankfully, this information has encouraged the development of new programs and resources that provide early intervention and instruction. These programs target middle school students, as well as their parents, in the hope that they can teach warning signs and good decision making early. While the reports and the new early intervention programs recognize that males and females can be both the abuser and the abused, women and girls are still disproportionately the victims of dating violence.

Psychologically and physically abusive relationships that begin in the early teenage years can cause long-term patterns of abuse that continue into adulthood.We discussed the adverse health effects of intimate partner violence in our report, Through the Lens of EQUALITY: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women. While the report focuses on adult women, teenagers are at risk as well.

The New York Times article was released as Congress debates reauthorizing VAWA. This is the first time since the bill was passed in 1994 that reauthorization has been challenged, and support has been divided along party lines. In this year’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the age limit for participants in programs funded with federal grant money has been lowered to eleven. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has also given $1 million grants to each of 11 schools nation-wide in order to establish programs in middle schools that educate students about healthy teen relationships. More than ever, funding and education are needed to help to stop intimate partner violence, and protect and provide services for victims.

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Filed under Girls, Violence Against Women

Female Stereotype Threat Hurts Women, Economy

Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Wingfield, Former WLP Intern

In an article for WeNews, Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers demonstrate that girls still internalize stereotypes about female performance in math and science, making them less likely to pursue careers in those fields. While the percentage of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers is rising, according to Barnett and Rivers girls need to hear earlier that there are no innate gender differences in math and science if we want to eradicate stereotype threat (“that confidence-killing burden of anxiety”) and therefore see more women  in STEM careers.

Barnett and Rivers report that a 2009 study found “that middle school girls did less well on a math test when told that boys generally did better in math than girls. Even girls who denied they held a belief in girls’ inferiority did poorly. Without the negative information, they score nearly as well as men.” Girls have proven their ability to compete with their male counterparts by taking the top prizes at Google’s first science fair and taking roughly the same number of math and science courses in middle and high school as boys. However, girls still hold a disproportionately low percentage of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering. Even those women who do hold undergraduate STEM degrees are less likely to work in a STEM career than their male counterparts. Barnett and Rivers blame stereotype threat for this disparity.

The lack of women in STEM occupations is a “brain drain” that the US cannot afford. According to “Rebecca Blank, acting deputy secretary of the Commerce Department…the lack of women in STEM is harming U.S. ability to compete in the global innovation marketplace.” But, “fortunately…a team led by psychologist Anthony Greenwald at the University of Washington discovered that although girls in the early grades see math largely as a male preserve, they haven’t yet made the connection that ‘because I am a girl, math is not for me.’” These findings suggest that if girls are assured early enough that they are not innately worse at math because of their sex that they will be more likely to pursue jobs in STEM fields later on since they will be less likely to suffer from stereotype threat.

You can read the entire article here.

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Filed under Education, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Sexism

Georgia Anti-Sex Trafficking Law a Step in the Right Direction

On July 1, a Georgia bill mandating more compassionate treatment of victims of sex trafficking and harsher punishments for perpetrators will officially become law.  The law will increase the penalty for sex trafficking to up to 20 years in prison for those trafficking adults and up to 50 years for those trafficking minors. The law will make it so survivors of sex trafficking who are engaged in a legal proceeding will be treated “as victims, not criminals, by offering them recovery under the state crime victims fund and an affirmative defense when coming forward.”

The new law aims to help protect adult as well as child survivors of sex trafficking but focuses on survivors who are minors, dictating “a 25-year minimum prison sentence for coercing sex from anyone under 18.”

The law hopefully represents a growing recognition of the need to end domestic sex trafficking, an issue that has not received a lot of support in the past compared to sex trafficking in other parts of the world.

There’s support for “girls in India or Thailand, girls from fractured families, who have endured abuse, who are very vulnerable, who have been lured or kidnapped into being trafficked for sex,” says [the founder of Rebecca Project for Human Rights Malika Saada] Saar. “But girls from those same situations from American circumstances are not recognized as victims; they are cast down as bad girls making bad decisions.”

Unfortunately, the problem of sex trafficking minors in the United States is a growing one. This is possibly due to an increasing market demand “fueled in part by the larger society’s hypersexualization of young girls. ‘The commercial sex industry has ceased to be an industry of adults,’ says Saar. ‘It’s about buying girls. You talk to any pimp. He wants young girls; young girls make more money for him. Demand that exists is for very young girls.’”

The law received praise from anti- sex trafficking advocates such as Renee Kempton, the Atlanta ambassador for Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTN).  She says she “like[s] a lot about the bill,” especially

the fact that the victims can claim an affirmative defense when they come forward…A lot of girls are scared to come forward and this creates a safe haven for them to do so. This also helps deter the Johns and pimps because they all thrive on fear. They get her to think she has no one but him. The way this law is written, it provides a safe place for girls to share information with authorities because they are usually controlled by fear.

Kempton said “the Governor’s Officer of Children and Families issued a report which estimated that 490 adolescent girls get trafficked in the state of Georgia per month, “ and though the exact number is unknown, the U.S. government estimates “thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked to the United States for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation.” Given the upsetting number of victims of sex trafficking in the U.S., Georgia’s new law may be considered a small step in the right direction. To find out about Pennsylvania legislation to help end sex trafficking in our state and to find out how you can take action, click here. To learn about a proposed bill that would to help eradicate sex-trafficking in Pittsburgh specifically, click here.

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Filed under Girls, Government, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rape, Women's health

“If You Didn’t See the Ponytails, She Would Have Fit Right In:” Women and Sports

Recently the New York Times reported on the successes of female wrestlers in state competitions.  The article highlighted the recent Vermont State Champion in the 103 weight class, Rachel Hale. Hale defeated male competitors to become Vermont’s first female state champion and the nation’s third. Gender has now become an issue in this heavily male-dominated sport.

Still, the number of female wrestlers remains comparatively small. In most states, high school girls compete against boys, who far outnumber them with more than 270,000 national participants. The issue of gender differences is a subtext in the rough contact of these matches.

There is this pervasive notion in male-dominated sports that women are unfit to compete against boys because they are physically not suited for the sport’s rougher aspects. Detractors focus on the fact that they are women, and not their talent. This has not only been present in wrestling (in Iowa a young man recently refused to wrestle a female opponent citing religious and personal reasons), but also in baseball. Justine Siegal was the first woman to pitch in a major league batting practice, and has been present on the collegiate and professional coaching scene.

“If you didn’t see the ponytails, she would have fit right in,” said catcher Paul Phillips, one of the players who took swings off Siegal’s pitches. “She did great.”

These strong gender issues cloud women’s successes in sport, and further perpetuate the notion that women will always be a step below men. We only hope that more people can see female athletes like Rachel Hale’s coach, Scott Legacy. After her victory he remarked:

“I’m old school,” Legacy, 47, said of having a girl on his wrestling team. “This is new to me. But she’s a great kid. I see her as a wrestler, not a female.”

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Filed under Equality, Girls, Sports, Title IX