The Unintended Downside Of Title IX For Women

Title IX celebrated its 50th anniversary today. Although Title IX protects against sexual harassment and discrimination in schools and colleges, the law is perhaps most famous for forcing colleges and universities to provide equal funding for men’s and women’s sports.

President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, 1972, and it has been recognized for creating opportunities for female athletes. In 1971, before Title IX passed, only 1% of college athletic budgets went to women’s sports programs. The additional funding for women’s sports brought by Title IX has led to a 1057% increase in female participation in sports at the high school level and a 614% increase at the college level. Title IX is responsible for a myriad of benefits appropriately being celebrated on its 50th anniversary, but Title IX has downsides for women as well.

Women’s Teams Are Coached By Men

In 1972, just prior to Title IX, women held 90% of the head coaching positions for women’s college teams. Then Title IX forced colleges and universities to fund men’s and women’s sports equally, and money flooded into women’s sports. As a result, universities were offering significantly higher salaries to coaches of women’s teams than they had before Title IX. Suddenly, with higher pay on the table, men were interested in these coaching jobs previously held by women.

Now, according to the 2021 report from The Institute For Diversity And Ethics In Sport (TIDES) women hold a mere 41.1% of all coaching positions across all women’s collegiate sports. Richard Lapchick, the institute’s director and lead report author, summed up, “The coaching statistics in women’s college sport remain the worst statistics reported by TIDES in all of the report cards we publish each year. It is appalling that 50 years after the passage of Title IX that women hold less than 50 percent of all the assistant coaching positions and barely 41% of the head coaching positions.” Ironically the law aimed at bringing about equality ended up highlighting inequities in sports coaching.

And women aren’t coaching men’s sports either. As of 2021, only 6.8% of men’s Division 1 team head coaches are women (a decrease from last year), and women represent only 4.5% of men’s Division II and 4.8% of men’s Division III head coaching positions.

Women’s Scholarships And Programs Became Illegal

Title IX hasn’t only changed the gender makeup of college coaching, but it has recently also hindered programs aimed at attracting women into STEM fields. Women are typically underrepresented in high-paying fields like engineering or computer science, so many universities offer special scholarships or programs to attract women into these fields.

For the same reasons that universities can’t offer sports to men only under Title IX, they can’t offer awards or programs solely for women. So programs aimed at helping women are being called out as discriminatory against men. As a result, the Department of Education is investigating and shuttering not just women’s scholarships and awards at universities but leadership programs and even gym hours reserved for women as well. These programs discriminate against men according to Title IX.

Like so many laws aimed at helping a particular group, there are unintended side effects of Title IX. Title IX’s fiftieth anniversary should certainly be celebrated, but we should be aware of the law’s downsides as well.

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