"In 1972–73, the first school year under Title IX, more than 12 times more boys than girls played high school sports."
"Title IX's effects extend into the classroom and beyond: Research suggests that the legislation has contributed to the rise in the number of women who work full time and who have moved into formerly male-dominated occupations."
- Sports Illustrated, 7 May 2012
Forty years ago this June, Title IX became law. The push to pass the legislation was spearheaded by Democratic Indiana Senator Birch Bayh and signed by Republican President Richard Nixon. It survived numerous challenges following its passage and has played an important role in reducing (but unfortunately not eliminating) gender inequities in sports and education.
The latest Sports Illustrated includes a comprehensive look at Title IX. It's hard to believe, but as noted in the top quote, there were more than 12 times as many boys as girls playing high school sports in the early 1970s. Having just attended my daughter's soccer game, I feel fortunate that things have improved.
In skiing, which is dear to the hearts of the Wasatch Weather Weenies, the most dominant and compelling athlete today is Lindsey Vonn, pictured below with her 16 World Cup globes.
|Source: US Ski Team|
ESPN reports that Vonn earned more prize money in 2011 ($612, 417) than Marcel Hirscher ($510,192), the top male skier, and she beat Hirscher again in 2012. I haven't been able to confirm this for sure, but it appears that FIS World Cup prize money is gender neutral, providing the same amount per event whether it be a men's or women's race. Title IX has no jurisdiction over the FIS, but it has contributed to changes in the US and elsewhere that have improved the opportunities for female athletes in general.
Nevertheless, many challenges remain, not just in sports, but also in my field, atmospheric sciences. According to a report by the Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in 2002, women earned 29% of the bachelor's degrees and 26% of the doctoral degrees in the atmospheric sciences, yet only 10% of the faculty in atmospheric sciences are women. I suspect things have improved only marginally in the past decade. This "leaky pipeline" reflects gender barriers that exist not only in the atmospheric sciences, but also other engineering and science disciplines. Fixing this leaking pipeline would not only improve gender equity, but also create a more diverse and competitive scientific workforce for addressing the challenges of the 21st century.