Solutions for Higher Education engages in deeper reflection of critical issues in the world of colleges and universities.
In Episode 30, President Scott L Wyatt and Professor Steve Meredith are joined by Val Bonnette to discuss Title IX and Gender Equity. Bonnette is the President of Good Sports Inc, a Gender Equity Specialist consulting firm, and has spent more than 40 years working on issues related to Title IX, including 14 years spent in the Civil rights department of the Department of Education.“A wave of social unrest that was going on in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, civil rights marches and demonstrations for minority and women’s rights led to the major landmark civil rights legislation in 1964—the Civil Rights Act of 1964—it was an extraordinary time for civil rights legislation,” said Bonnette. “Title IX of the Education Amendment was issued in 1972, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act in 1975. They all became law during this timeframe. But it was the minority and women’s rights demonstrations demanding their fair share of the American dream.”
For many people, Title IX is strongly identified with athletic programs, but it wasn’t initially conceived of as an athletics program. Inequality for women and minorities extend to the academic realm as well, with women being turned away from programs based on their gender.
“Title IX has had quite an impact on the access to course offerings issue,” said Bonnette. “In 1972 something like 10% of the medical students may have been women. 14% were law school students. Those numbers are about half now—half the medical and law school students are women these days. So, it’s had a tremendous impact in that area.”
While Title IX has had great success in the academic sphere it has been slower to bring parity in the realm of athletics. It has been a slow process, but Bonnette is optimistic about the causes of this entrenched inequality and believes that spreading information about Title IX will help to eliminate it.
“I think most administrators want to comply with the Title IX athletics provision, and in my experience, even administrators from years ago who did not particularly support athletics and did not particularly support women’s athletics, they say they did not want their institution to be in violation of federal civil rights law,” said Bonnette. “So, on that basis alone, they were ready to comply. But I think the lack of accurate information out there about how to comply is still the major reason why we don’t have widespread compliance.”
Compliance with Title IX in athletics can be complicated, but the program has still been highly successful for women's athletics and academics, making higher education more equitable.
“We all have daughters and sons and sisters and brothers, and we just want everybody to have a fair shot at it,” said Wyatt. “At our school, we have considerably more female students than male students, and it’s not unusual that our female students are actually graduating at slightly higher rates than the male students too. So, it’s kind of an interesting dynamic to think of when we talk about equal opportunities.
Listen to Episode 30 here.