THE 40th anniversary of the legislation that is identified simply as Title IX is a time to reflect on the enormous changes this law has brought about and the roadblocks that still exist for it to achieve its full potential.
Indiana is justified in its pride in the role the state played in the process of ending centuries of gender inequity in society and the country. Former Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., authored the act that prohibited discrimination based on sex in educational programs that receive federal funding.
The act certainly accomplished that basic goal, but it went even further in shattering glass ceilings that had limited women in myriad career fields and other pursuits.
It would be difficult to find a better example of how this law has worked than right here in Bartholomew County. It can be seen in local government, both now and in the past.
In 1979, seven years after the act was adopted, Nancy Ann Brown became the first woman to be elected mayor of Columbus. Last year, the voters of Columbus elected another woman as mayor — Kristen Brown. They had no choice. Both candidates for the city’s top job were women.
Prior to the act’s adoption in 1972, girls sports were practically nonexistent in Columbus at the high school level. Almost overnight, school officials not only had to adjust to a second high school in the city but to systems in which both schools were required to offer girls the opportunity to participate in sports that went beyond the intramural level.
The act required adjustments in community attitudes as well as structural changes. There were a number of hiccups in the early stages, but they were overshadowed by extremely positive reactions from the public at large. Many of those early girls teams were embraced by the community with a fervor that matched the public’s feeling of ownership about previous boys teams.
Despite these advances, much remains to be done in correcting centuries of gender imbalance. Although the original act primarily targeted educational programs, the ripple effects spread throughout society.
Unfortunately they have not spread to all sectors. As noted in one of the stories in a package about the 40th anniversary of Title IX in The Republic last week, a study by the American Association of University Women indicated that women in Indiana make only 72 percent of what their male counterparts are paid.
Until situations like that are corrected, it must be acknowledged that there are still miles to travel in bringing about the full potential of Title IX. On the other hand, to look at what has been achieved, one can only describe its effect as outstanding.
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