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Title IX report: Gender gap persists in high school and college sports

(Mercedes Oliver/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

A new report published by the Women’s Sports Foundation has found that almost 50 years after the enactment of Title IX, girls still have fewer opportunities to participate in high school sports than boys.

Additionally, the number of opportunities for girls still falls below the number of opportunities available to boys in 1972. At the time of Title IX’s enactment, boys had just over 3.6 million high school sports opportunities. In 2018-19, girls had 3.4 million opportunities, while boys had 4.5 million opportunities.

Just 60 percent of girls are participating in high school sports compared to 75 percent of boys.

A report from Sport England’s Women in Sport in 2019 lends some insight into that statistic. The study found that 64 percent of girls will have quit sports by the time they finish puberty at age 16 or 17. Part of the reason, the study finds, is that seven out of 10 girls are afraid to fail and avoid trying new things. Six out of 10 said that failing during puberty led them to want to quit.

There are also other barriers, such as lack of confidence due to body image and appearance, feelings of physical and emotional vulnerability during puberty (for instance, 42 percent of 14-16 year olds said that periods stopped them from taking part in sport while in school), and feeling as though only those with talent have value.

There’s also the fact that the proportionally equitable opportunities that women and girls are supposed to receive under Title IX still lag behind. While women account for nearly 60 percent of all college students, only 43.9 percent of college sports opportunities are awarded to women.

Women also lag behind in scholarships by $252 million.

“We should absolutely celebrate the fact that girls’ participation in high school sports is nearly 12 times higher than it was when Title IX was passed, but we cannot rest on it,” WSF founder Billie Jean King said. “The mere existence of Title IX does not ensure equal opportunities unless it is enforced for everyone, particularly among girls and women of color, those with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community – where the gap is consistently the widest.”

In high schools with majority Black and/or Hispanic students, girls receive 67 percent of the opportunities that the boys do. At predominately white schools, that number sits at 82 percent.

Recently, Republican-backed legislation has taken aim at targeting the exclusion of transgender youth in the name of protecting women’s sports.

As a result, the WSF recommends that the U.S. Department of Education “issue specific policy guidelines confirming that Title IX should be interpreted to provide opportunities to transgender and nonbinary students to participate in sports in a manner consistent with their gender identities” and that state policymakers implement “inclusive policies for transgender and nonbinary athletes.”

Additionally, the WSF recommended the development of a new federal reporting system to better monitor Title IX compliance and encourage colleges to hire more women and nonbinary individuals into positions in administration.