"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." - TITLE IX
As a young woman with a passion for education, Bernice Sandler (known to her friends as Bunny) entered the University of Maryland in the 1960s with an expectation of earning her doctoral degree and teaching. Smart, motivated and committed, Dr. Sandler had done well in her PhD program, and she was excited about the prospects of what lay ahead as she approached graduation. What she had not seen coming after teaching part time while earning her degree was a consistent rejection of her qualifications when she applied for jobs. Puzzled by the fact that although multiple positions were available in her own department, no effort was made to extend her a job offer, Dr. Sandler asked her department chair. He told her bluntly that she was being passed over because she "came on too strong for a woman."
The expression "too strong for a woman" was code for the reluctance male faculty and administrators felt in terms of hiring women in the 1960s. Viewing female candidates as less qualified and less committed, prone to putting marriage and family before job, and disruptive to all-male faculties, the routine dismissal of female applicants for positions in higher education was a standard practice. It was this rejection that led Dr. Sandler to become the country's leading authority on sex discrimination in schools.
Working at a time when there were few reports on the status of women in education, she built the initial case for why this form of discrimination was damaging to the women involved and to society overall. This concept of sex discrimination was so new, in fact, that the culture had yet to develop a vocabulary to adequately convey that women were being accorded second-class status in a democracy that prided itself on fair and equal treatment of its citizens.
What strikes us as unbelievable today in the United States and other Western cultures was accepted practice in the years leading up to the passage of Title IX. Girls were required to meet higher grade and test score thresholds in order to get into college and professional schools than boys. Colleges and universities maintained admission quotas to ensure that only so many women would receive a higher education. Greater amounts of financial aid were awarded to men regardless of whether women were more qualified. Women were disqualified as applicants for jobs in education simply because they were women.
Read more in Women and Sport: From Liberation to Celebration by Staurowsky, Ellen J.
Title IX, the law of the land since 1972, made no mention of sports. Its 37 words just say that no educational institution or activity receiving any federal money can discriminate against or deny benefits to anyone on the basis of sex. Gender hadn’t been part of the civil rights laws of the 1960s, and so a woman named Bernice Sandler, who’d felt that gender discrimination in her own career, worked with Reps. Patsy Mink and Edith Green and Sen. Birch Bayh to leverage President Lyndon Johnson’s executive order on gender and hiring into a federal law.
Title IX’s effect on virtually every aspect of campus life — college demographics, scholarships, and of course girls’ and women’s sports — has been nothing short of stupendous.
How is this relevant today? Read more here.