Title IX: Protecting equality in the U.S. for 50 years

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the groundbreaking U.S. statute that protects people against gender discrimination.

“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,” the law states.

A history in four acts

Patsy Mink holding papers in front of U.S. Capitol Building (Courtesy of Gwendolyn Mink)
American attorney and politician Patsy Mink holds a copy of proposed legislation as she stands in front of the U.S. Capitol Building. (Courtesy of Gwendolyn Mink)

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin or religion.

Title VI of the same act said that federally assisted programs, such as those for education and sports, couldn’t discriminate based on race or national origin — but did not address gender discrimination.

That’s what Title IX did less than a decade later.

Thanks to the work of Congresswomen Patsy Mink and Edith Green, as well as Senator Birch Bayh, Title IX became part of the Education Amendments of 1972, signed into law by President Richard Nixon. It ensured that organizations receiving federal funds could not discriminate on the basis of gender in any educational program or sports activity.

The year before Title IX took effect, only 1% of universities’ sports budgets went to women’s sports. In secondary schools, male athletes outnumbered women 12.5 to 1.

Since Title IX took effect 50 years ago, women’s participation has increased 630% in college sports and 1,057% at the secondary-school level, according to The New York Times. Professional women’s sports are thriving, and in some instances women’s teams — such as the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, which has won four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals — are outperforming U.S. men’s teams in world competitions.

In addition to sports and education, Title IX protects anyone with any gender identity from discrimination in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, standardized-testing settings, sexual harassment cases and general employment.

“Equal educational opportunities for women and girls is essential for us to achieve parity in all aspects of our society,” said Mink in 1997 during the 25th anniversary celebrations of Title IX.

Where it stands today

In October 2002, Congress voted to name Title IX the “Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act” following her death.

Woman leaning over side of boat grabbing shark (Courtesy of the IF/THEN® Collection)
Jesse Camp, a shark researcher, marine conservationist and National Geographic Explorer, works with a shark off the Cook Islands. (Courtesy of the IF/THEN® Collection)

Early in his administration, President Biden signed two executive orders reinforcing Title IX, including Executive Order 14021, called “Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.”

This order says that all students must have “an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual violence, and including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”