Defending Title IX: It’s About More Than Just Sports. It’s An Economic Pathway to Success for Women.
Updated: Jul 10, 2022
By Dawn Lang | May 5, 2022 | First Published on Fishers One website
This year Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 will mark its 50-year anniversary. It is a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational program that is federally funded, either directly or indirectly. It is civil rights legislation for women. Ironically, the Biden Administration is eroding this landmark legislation by redefining the rule in terms of its interpretation and application. Additionally, due process protections for those accused of sexual assault on campus will expand the prohibition against discrimination based on “sex” to include “sex stereotypes, sex-related characteristics (including intersex traits), pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
The Biden Administration is changing 50 years of precedent that honors civil rights for women to bend to 0.6% of the population. Stop and think about that. Changing 50 years of legislation for less than 1% of the population. The Williams Institute collected data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to estimate the percentage and number of adults who identify as transgender nationally and in all 50 states and found that 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender.
Indiana’s link to Title IX is well noted. It was co-authored and introduced to Congress by Indiana Senator Birch Bayh in the U.S. Senate, and Congresswoman Patsy Mink in the House in 1972. Title IX is the only federal law designed for parity between the sexes in an educational environment. It was considered a feminist triumph at the time, and its passage represented a historic advancement for women allowing them both equal educational opportunities and a clear pathway to success later in life. In fact, 94% of female executives once played competitive sports, according to research conducted by EY. The positive economic impact of Title IX can be felt in the C-suite and boardroom of corporations and businesses across America through the women who hold these positions.
Title IX offers due process protections for both the accused and accuser in sexual assault and sexual violence cases on campus. The guilty should be punished, but justice requires a fair process. Yet, Biden’s rule will strip those accused of sexual assault or harassment of their right to be represented by counsel, to introduce evidence, or to cross-examine witnesses during the adjudication of sexual assault and sexual harassment hearings on school campuses.
When did things start to change?
The US Department of Education signaled its rule change as far back as June 2021, as noted by Sarah Parshall Perry at The Heritage Foundation. A Federal Notice of Interpretation of Title IX, published by the Department of Education indicated that based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020, sex discrimination would be interpreted within Title IX to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Applying this rationale to Title IX removes the law’s intended protections for women and impairs its very purpose in the first place.
Current articles about Title IX are applying this updated interpretation even though it has not yet been approved by The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where it is currently under review. The department’s announcement of the proposed Title IX rule is expected sometime this Spring.
Women and Athletics
Not every female athlete will win a trophy or a scholarship. The impact that transgender athletes competing in women’s athletics will have on those female athletes who aren’t competing for trophies and scholarships isn’t often discussed, but it’s significant. In fact, most college athletes will never compete for an NCAA title, and many receive little to no scholarship money during their athletic careers.
In August of 2020, an NCAA release noted that only 57% of all student athletes receive athletic scholarships. Most of those student athletes receive partial scholarships despite the common misconception that college athletes generally receive full-ride scholarships. When 43% of NCAA student athletes don’t even receive partial athletic scholarships, the issue’s scope becomes clearer. These female students aren’t just losing a chance to get money for school, they’re losing a chance to get on the playing field in the first place.
Athletics fosters natural competition. According to a 2020 NCAA research study, only about 0.06% of male high school athletes and 0.06% of female high school athletes progress to compete in NCAA sports at any level (Division I, II, or III). The percentage shrinks even more when considering athletes competing in each division.
On each team and school in all three NCAA divisions, the most talented competitors win scholarships. Only a certain number of athletes on every team choose to play despite a lack of financial aid. These athletes can and do contribute just as much to their teams as their teammates who receive scholarships. However, women who are members of college athletics teams, and on the lower end of the talent range, will be the first victims of this new interpretation of Title IX.
It is time for honesty on the nature of biology as immutable and unchangeable, and on the purpose and essence of Title IX - a federal law once advanced by liberals and feminists as ultimately protective of the rights of women and girls. It seems many of these same liberals and feminists have turned their backs.
Creating Pathways of Opportunity: Follow the Money $$
On March 17, University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male who competed from 2017-2019 on the University of Pennsylvania men’s swim team as Will Thomas, was crowned the women’s NCAA champion for the 500-yard freestyle event after only a year of hormone therapy. Will was an average swimmer, ranked No. 462 in the nation, until he decided he was actually a woman and took a few months of hormone suppressants to prove it. No amount of hormone therapy could alter Lia’s massive masculine body frame, denser muscle mass, larger lung size, and greater bone density. Lia rocketed to No. 1 in the women’s national swimming rankings breaking Penn, Ivy and NCAA Women’s Swimming records, feats she could not have done as a male athlete
Opening the door to biological males competing against biological females in athletics has created a pathway of education and economic opportunity that can clearly be monetized. According to the NCAA, Divisions I and II schools provide more than $3.6 billion in athletic scholarships annually to more than 180,000 student-athletes. While Division III schools, with more than 190,000 student-athletes do not offer athletically related financial aid most student-athletes receive some form of academic grant or need-based scholarship which can also favor transgender athletes should the new interpretation of Title IX pass.
Effective July 1, 2021, the NCAA suspended its restrictions and limitations on the ability of student-athletes to generate income from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). And deals are getting done. Big deals, small deals, medium sized deals – companies are rushing in to benefit from the shine, exposure, and stamp of approval that can come from being associated with young college athletes, many of whom have strong social media followings. Since July 1, 2021, all student-athletes are free to monetize their NIL to sign endorsement deals, appear in commercials and YouTube videos, get paid to mention brands in their TikTok and Instagram videos, get paid to autograph memorabilia, make appearances at businesses, and in all other creative ways generate cash – all without being deemed ineligible to play college sports by the NCAA. Over half-million students compete in 24 different sports every year, successfully preparing the young student-athletes for what could become their profession in the future if they decide to go pro.
The Future of Women’s Civil Rights and Economic Implications
Currently, Title IX provides equal educational opportunities and a clear pathway to success later in life. EY has done an incredible job of highlighting the correlation between female athletes and business leadership success. Participation in sports can help women break the glass ceiling and find a seat in the executive ranks.
A global EY and espnW survey of senior female executives found that 94% of women in the C-suite played sports, including 52% at the university level, and three-quarters (74%) said that a background in sports can help to accelerate a woman’s career. Furthermore, women’s success in sports has a positive social impact, overturning gender-based assumptions and setting an example for younger generations.
“Sports is a universal language,” explains Laura Gentile, Senior Vice President of espnW, who also played field hockey at university level. “And the more you see women playing and competing and succeeding, the more it changes the conversation.”
The EY study looked at the transferable attitudes and behaviors that competitive sport instills, and what women in the workforce (at all levels) learn from those who have successfully transitioned from sports to the founder’s chair. EY identified five winning strategies women develop as athletes and give them an edge in launching and scaling their own enterprises which includes confidence, single-mindedness (focus on challenges ahead), passion/determination, leadership, and resilience.
In conclusion, accelerating achievement of gender parity is an economic imperative. The world cannot afford to wait if some estimates predict another 170 years for women to achieve gender parity in the workplace. Altering Title IX will threaten women’s ability to reach that gender parity.
When the Department of Education, the NCAA, and governors advocate for the inclusion of biological males in women’s athletics, they are undoing the 50 years of progress made under Title IX. Now, more than ever, female athletes are fighting for their right to fairly compete. More than that, if this new interpretation of Title IX passes, women will find themselves right back where they started in their quest for educational, athletic, and professional parity.
Dawn Lang is a wife, mother of 3 and business owner actively involved in the Fishers community. Dawn is a resident of Fishers, Indiana for 27 years and invested in the communities' success.