By: Katrina Butner (See full bio)
I have defined myself as an athlete since the age of 4 when my parents signed me up to play soccer. My love of the sport continued though school and culminated with a scholarship to play for a division 1 team.
When I first think of Title IX, athletics comes to mind. But Title IX afforded women opportunities far beyond the playing field. The recent 40th Anniversary of Title IX on June 23rd provided a respite to pause and reflect on the opportunities I have had as a female, both in athletics and in academics, and consider the progress we have made as a country. Since 1972, high school athletics have increased 10-fold, with a six-fold increase at the collegiate level, and the proportion of female professors in science and mathematics has more than doubled!
I had the opportunity to attend a Title IX Anniversary event hosted by the Women’s Hall of Fame with members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition this week. This was a great experience to learn from those who directly influenced Title IX, including former Senator Birch Bayh, who is known as the “grandfather of Title IX.”
I never thought twice about attending the college of my choice, or then pursuing a graduate degree. During the anniversary event, several esteemed members of a panel spoke on their experiences prior to Title IX. Before 1972, there were limited options for women in higher education, often with small quotas of 10% or even 0% of women allowed to be enrolled at a University.
As a competitive runner, I loved hearing Katherine Switzer recount her experience as the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967. Did you know that soon after starting the race, the race director attempt to remove her when he realized a woman was running? Luckily, she was able to continue running – with new motivation. Dr. Condoleezza Rice delivered the keynote address and spoke eloquently on her experiences as an athlete and her wish to help empower women to continue to reach for their goals.
Want to learn more about Title IX and the perspectives of other female athletes? The President’s Council has more information on their website, including blog posts by Council Members Billie Jean King and Michelle Kwan, and a video clip from Billie Jean King on the important of equal opportunities in sports.
Overall, there have been great advances for women in the past 40 years, both on and off the field, but we still have a long way to go to ensure equity for girls and women in sports.
Have you or your family members benefited from Title IX? Share your story here!