Title IX was passed 50 years ago this year, and its impact has been nothing short of monumental. So, what is Title IX really? Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law in the United States of America that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other program that receives funding from the federal government. Title IX has influenced several different facets of society in regard to gender equality, and while some are at the forefront of Title IX conversations — sexual violence prevention and justice, and equality in sports — others that are talked about less frequently are still just as important. College admittance on the basis of gender, course study options, career options, degree completion and graduation rates, discipline based on gender and race, funding, housing, supports for pregnant and parenting students and the LGBTQ+ community, and the gender pay gap have all been positively shaped by this legislation. As schools are beginning session, let’s have a brief overview on the impact of Title IX.
It is a common assumption that “Title IX is for women,” and while it does help the fight for gender equality for women, it isn’t solely for women. Like feminism, it is really an avenue toward gender equality, and a tool to fight against discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. It appears to root itself in the sex and gender of cishet women, simply because our society exists in a patriarchy that maintains the privilege of the sex and gender of cishet men. Title IX seeks to create balance. By ensuring all students could access any course of study, women were no longer forced — by policy or stigma — into specific career paths based on gender stereotypes. Historically, the practice of gendering areas of study created a pipeline for men to transition into higher paying occupations and women into lower ones. This led to an overrepresentation of men, and an underrepresentation of women, in certain (and especially in well-paid) job categories — otherwise known as occupational segregation. Title IX opens up career options for women, helping to dismantle occupational segregation — and reducing the gender pay gap. Women’s access to historically male-dominated professions has been a large contributor to leveling the pay scale playing field.
It really does come down to dollars and cents. A woman with a bachelor’s degree earns 78 percent more than a woman with only a high school education. Two-thirds of adult students who drop out of college do so because they do not have the money to continue. Why does this matter? Because women are also the primary or co-breadwinners in more than two-thirds of American families. This means that fair wages are crucial to at least two-thirds of American families. In 1973, full-time working women were paid a median of 56.6 cents to every dollar men were paid. In 2022 women, on average, are paid 83 cents for every dollar men are paid. While the goal is still a dollar for every dollar, Title IX deserves a lot of credit for the progress that has been made in narrowing the gender pay gap today.
But Title IX doesn’t stand alone. It’s important to note that the 1964 Civil Rights Act led the way for the passage of Title IX. It is critical to understand the connection between racial and gender discrimination, and how they often work together as an intersectional barrier to education and the workforce. ‘Title IX has changed the landscape of higher education’, by The 19th, asserts, “Though the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in federally-funded programs — including education — on the basis of race, color and national origin, sex was not included, which opened the door for Title IX’s passage just two years after Congress held its first hearings on sex discrimination in higher education.” For decades, Women Employed has recognized the critical impact the intersection of gender and race has had, and continues to have, on student success. In Illinois, Black and Latina/o/x students are severely underrepresented in public higher education. And although the rate at which Women of Color attend college and earn college degrees is much higher than it was before Title IX, we are still a long way from equal accessibility and representation. WE are committed to closing gender and racial equity gaps in higher education and making sure the needs of these women are not overlooked.
While Title IX has helped us to make enormous strides toward gender and racial equity in society, we still have quite a way to go before we achieve true equity in education and the workplace. So, what’s left to be done? In short: eliminating barriers such as occupational segregation, the gender pay gap, and gender and racial inequity, and ensuring funding for higher education and financial aid are a start.
For almost 50 years, Women Employed has been a leading advocate for equity for women, both in the workforce and in higher education. WE advance equity in higher education through programs such as ASPIRE and Career Foundations, and by leading the charge to make sure need-based financial aid like MAP and Pell grants are available to students who need them. WE aim to ensure women, especially Black and Latina/x women who face higher systemic barriers, are empowered to achieve their dreams.
There’s no way to know for certain what the future will look like for people who have been negatively impacted by systemic barriers, but in celebrating 5 decades of both Title IX and Women Employed, we do know we have the tools to make sure the next 50 years are even more progressive than the last.