In 1972, Title IX passed as a part of the Education Amendments, prohibiting sexual discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding.
Title IX’s passage didn’t immediately solve gender inequality, but it was a large step in the right direction. And although its primary scope is much larger, Title IX has had an enormous influence on sports.
Fast forward 50 years, women sports attract hundreds of thousands of supporters, garner millions of viewers on national TV and cash checks from corporate partnerships. But perhaps the most satisfying change is that they had finally gained the respect of critics who had chastised them for decades.
“What’s great is you’re starting to see corporations and even TV that are starting to show women sports on TV,” Michigan women’s soccer coach Jennifer Klein said. “Right now, I can turn on the (TV this) weekend and NBC Sports is showing the highest level of women’s English soccer.”
She later added: “Women provide a great product. They play good sports and it’s fun to watch and it’s entertaining to watch. There’s a lot of great individuals out there that are good role models and good women for girls and boys to look up to and want to aspire to be like.”
A little over a year ago, the US Women’s National Team put on a show of their dominance as they climbed their way to winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup — their fourth time claiming the title. This time their victory came with a message: ‘equal pay.’
Despite the women’s team achieving considerably more success than the US Men’s National Team, they would only receive a maximum of $99,000 in a 20-game exhibition while the men would earn an average of about $263,320 — a sobering reminder of the antiquated culture of the country they represented on their chest.
Still, it is obvious that there remains plenty of work to be done.
“(There) for sure has been a huge improvement,” Klein said, “but I still think a battle that is not far from being done.”
Even with all the improvements that Title IX brought, there will always be reminders of the discriminatory path women sports have fought through. The lack of equal pay is one. The lack of females in leadership positions is a another.
At the Division I level, only 11 percent of athletic directors are women, only 18 percent of chancellors/presidents are women, only 20 percent of head athletic trainers and only 24 percent of all head coaches.
“As great as Title IX has been for providing more opportunities for women, especially women participants in sports,” Klein said, “it also created more jobs and that did open up the door for more men into coaching.”
It’s a distasteful reminder that there are always nagging remnants of an unequal society in spite of the huge leaps women have taken in spite of those stereotypes.
“We just have to continue to push and find more opportunities and outlets to keep getting women in,” Klein said. “It starts at a young age where … we identify players within our team that we feel would be great coaches and encourage them … to start that path.”
Klein views coaching as a vessel for women to rise to any leadership role within sports. She acknowledges that it doesn’t have to be something that they have to do for their career, but rather something that can help set an example for the next generation.
“The more that young girls can see women in coaching positions,” Klein said. “(It) will continue to help them see that ‘Hey this is something that I can and that I want to do and that allows for me to stay connected to sports that I love.”
This is very similar to something that Michigan volleyball coach Mark Rosen said a few weeks ago.
“I want our players, our student-athletes to see women in leadership roles in every aspect, whether it is as athletic directors, as sport administrators, as professors, as coaches,” Rosen said. “You want them to see that as a viable option for them. If they don’t see it, then how do they really picture it as a viable option?”
Rosen — a male coaching a female team — has tried to make himself an ally in this fight against gender discrimination. According to Klein, it’s this unified effort for quality that is resulting in these growths.
“That growth and that movement … is happening because we have women and men that are fighting for that equality,” Klein said.