As Title IX celebrates its golden year, are women and girls really treated the same?
Before hosting her legendary eponymous television program, The Oprah Winfrey Show, the future “Queen of Talk” was co-host of a local daytime show in Baltimore. And even though Oprah was making a name for herself at the time, she wasn’t making a lot of money — at least not compared to her male co-host. When she discovered the pay disparity, she took a bold stand for herself. Facing bullying, Oprah decided to speak with the station’s general manager about a raise.
“I had gone to my boss and said that the guy who worked with me, my co-host on ‘People Are Talking’, was making more money than me,” Winfrey said in an interview. in 2014 at Stanford. University.
“I said, Richard makes more money than me, and I don’t think it’s just because we do the same job, we watch the same show.”
However, his boss didn’t see it that way at all. “My CEO said to me, ‘Why should you make as much money as he does? He has children. Do you have children?”
“I said no,” Winfrey recalled. The general manager continued. “He has to pay for college. He owns his own house; Do you own your home? So tell me, why do you need the same amount of money? »
His answer: “Because we do the same work.
This simple yet powerful statement is still a statement for women in sport and education, even as Title IX turns 50.
Title IX was enacted to ensure gender equity, particularly in education and federally funded sports.
No person in the United States shall, because of gender, be excluded from participation, denied benefits, or discriminated against in any educational program or activity benefiting from federal financial assistance. – Title IX, signed by President Richard Nixon, June 23, 1972
Since Title IX, there have been significant advances for women, including recent achievements such as the overall college enrollment rate for 18-24 year olds being higher for women than for men since 2000.
The intentions of Title IX are noble and there is no doubt that this law has left an indelible mark on generations of women and girls. At the same time, one must also ask whether Title IX delivers on its promise to protect women from discrimination and underrepresentation in their educational and athletic pursuits.
Female and female students and athletes face sexual harassment, discipline based on gender and race, and discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
There is also the maternity bias. Take for example Alex Morgan (soccer player) and Aliphine Tuliamuk (marathoner) who had to challenge Olympic restrictions that prevented mothers like them from traveling with their breastfed babies or young children – essentially forcing them to choose between their commitment to motherhood and sports.
Or the recent fight of the United States women’s soccer team for equal pay that had to go to court just so female soccer players could get equal pay for doing the SAME JOB as male soccer players – and do it even better!
So, are women really being treated fairly five decades after the groundbreaking Title IX legislation? There are a few things to consider.
Look around the room… and on the ground. Universities have a majority of male coaches and administrative staff. Women hold a limited number of coaching and leadership positions, and looking through an intersectional lens, that number is even smaller with women of color. Thus, even if there may be women in the “room where it happens”, these women are generally the ones who execute (intermediate level in the best positions), and not those who make the decisions.
This really mirrors much of corporate America, where leaders at the top lack racial and gender diversity.
Then there is the ongoing issue of pay equity. 50 years later, progress is slow. For example, the average NBA player earns $5.3 million a year, according to 2021-2022 data from Basketball Reference. Star players earn up to 10 times that amount. By comparison, WNBA players earn an average of $130,000 per year.
Some advocates of this pay inequality say it should be because men’s sport is more marketable than women’s sport. This argument is reminiscent of excuses for why women are not advanced to leadership in technology or finance and other male-dominated industries. It looks like a cop.
Is it really because women can’t attract numbers (people or dollars)? Or are they blamed or penalized for the systemic issues that have historically excluded women and girls from equal access to opportunities and resources to be able to dominate in their respective sport? More on this in the next point.
Inspect investments. The NCAA spends more money on men’s sports than on women’s. That’s a fact. But in their defense, the NCAA technically does not have to comply with Title IX because it is not federally funded. Additionally, televised sports networks, like ESPN and CBS, are not federally funded, so they don’t have to represent men’s and women’s sports equally. And they don’t. However, broadcast deals and corporate sponsorships pump money into men’s collegiate sports, when many of these institutions are federally funded. Because of this, there is a lot of attention and dollars spent on men’s championships rather than women’s championships, even in the same sport.
Then there is the issue of training, resources and amenities for women in sport that are radically (embarrassingly) different from those for men in sport. A now-viral TikTok video posted last year by female basketball players at the University of Oregon highlighted these stark differences. The video showed meager equipment, just a rack of free weights and yoga mats, in the women’s small weight room during their championships. In comparison, the men’s room was much more spacious. It was a state-of-the-art weight complex with rows of equipment and electrical racks. For lunch, the female athletes had boxed meals while the men had catering which included steak and lobster mac and cheese. These athletes were in the same place and doing the same work for their schools.
The findings of a review of the incident in 2021 boiled down to 3 key recommendations:
- Change the leadership structure to prioritize gender equity.
- Have the budget to appropriately and equitably address gender differences.
- Develop equity in staffing.
In other words, he says, “Put your money where your mouth is.” And the same could be said about the advancement of women in business. Because what an organization invests in reveals what it really cares about. The reverse is also very revealing.
Empathy and fairness cannot be legislated. The law set forth by Title IX cannot dictate whether people will do the right thing or not. Yes, the law can make certain mandates. But on its own, on paper, it cannot bring about significant change. It has to come from people who are able to make a difference and who are willing to be empathetic, human-centered partners with players, students and leaders who happen to be women. This is what leads to real transformation, whatever the sector.
Think about it. What is behind the apathy and the merits of paying women less and investing less in them? See them as inferior people? Otherwise, wouldn’t the investment be the same? There would be restless concern and corresponding actions towards things like having
- Empathy for what it feels like to be underpaid for working hard
- Compassion for athletes who are mothers
- Curiosity around what it is like to be a woman or a girl in competitive sports
Women carry the mental and emotional brunt of this on the field, field, boardroom, etc., knowing that they are treated differently than their male counterparts. They grow up getting used to things being unfair. It’s normalized, but never noticed.
Medtronic, a global health technology leader with more than 90,000 employees and based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, recently achieved 100% pay equity for its entire US sales team. A female leader there said: ‘I thought about it every day. I thought about how I was doing the same job as men in my same position, but they were making more money than me.
Medtronic has achieved this pay equity feat in less than two years and during the pandemic. He speaks of intention. From top to bottom, they wanted equal pay, so they put in place the infrastructure and the intention to do it.
Now the question is, if it could happen in such a short time, wouldn’t 50 years be enough to achieve gender equity in the sports industry as well?
Sedona Prince, the University of Oregon forward who posted the previously mentioned TikTok video, says, “Growing up, you get dangerously used to the inequities between women’s and men’s sports. As you grow older, this anger rises. It charges in the background, behind the smiles, the friendships and the celebrations.
Fifty years after a major decision like Title IX, there shouldn’t be so much talk about what it’s supposed to do. He should just do it.
As a mother of two sons and two daughters, all soccer and ski racing players, I support their love of the sport and their dream of playing in college or even professionally one day. I don’t want to have this conversation with my daughters, but it’s important to me that they understand that despite being Title IX, they will have to fight twice as hard as their brothers for the same opportunities in the sports world, the education and business. Not because they aren’t as good. Not because they do a different job. Simply because they are women.
Women and girls, in this generation and beyond, deserve more – whether the law requires it or not.
Hopefully, we can celebrate Title IX’s next milestone anniversary by acknowledging that all that glitters about it IS actually gold…medals included!