Almost 50 years after the approval of Title IX, girls and women flock to a record number of sports, but still face an uneven playing field, according to a national report published on Wednesday.
The 96-page study of the Women's Sports Foundation found an unprecedented participation in American high schools and universities in the past two years.
He also showed that women continue to lag behind men by up to 10% and face barriers when it comes to opportunities in professional sports, training and administration.
"From the playgrounds to the boardrooms, girls and women continue to live their passion for the sport," Deborah Antoine, executive director of the foundation, said in a statement. "As these achievements are celebrated, let's continue examining the gaps and opportunities to ensure that all girls and all women can participate in the game."
Written as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title IX states: "No person in the United States, on grounds of sex … shall be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity that receives federal financial assistance."
In the simplest terms, the law seeks "proportionality": if half of the student body is female, there should be a corresponding percentage of opportunities. Schools can also meet by showing improvements.
Officials spent much of the 1970s fighting on how to apply the legislation. A 1984 Supreme Court ruling limited its scope, but Congress restored its jurisdiction four years later.
The Women's Sports Federation analyzed hundreds of studies, public documents, lawsuits and media reports. He also surveyed 2,356 female sports leaders from across the country.
Girls' participation in high school sports increased for the 29th consecutive year in 2017-18, reaching a maximum of 3.4 million, the report said. That total fell only slightly in 2018-19.
At the NCAA level, there were 216,378 opportunities, representing a 291% increase in the 1981-82 school year.
"In general, more girls and women are accessing the significant benefits of sports participation," said the foundation.
Girls still tend to start playing sports later than boys and drop out earlier, participating at a rate of 7% to 10% lower.
Eighty-seven percent of NCAA schools in the three levels of division offer disproportionately higher athletic opportunities for men compared to enrollment. There has also been a discrepancy in spending for men's and women's sports.
Foundation researchers expressed concern that high schools and universities did not have sufficiently educated staff, including coaches, to monitor compliance with Title IX. These inequalities extend beyond the scope of the law, in professional sports where athletes struggle to play in the United States.
"There are very few opportunities," said the foundation, "women have to pursue professional careers abroad."
The research suggested that the media also play a role.
Although it is estimated that one billion people watched the 2019 Women's World Cup, the overall coverage of women's sports decreased from 1989 to 2014, representing only 3.2% of television news and featured programs, according to a study cited For the foundation.
Newspaper staff disproportionately included few sports writers.
"Without fair media coverage, women's sports behavior models are invisible," the report said, adding that "girls and women can conclude that there is little cultural value assigned to their participation in sport."
In addition to issuing their findings, the foundation's leaders announced the launch of a project to drive change.
They would like to see better supervision at all levels of sport and adequate funding so that each school can designate and train a Title IX coordinator. They want a reassessment of hiring practices to ensure that women have a fair chance in training and sports administration.
In the media, the foundation is asking the media to hire more women to improve equity in coverage.
"Girls and women derive significant benefits from sports participation that are immediate and long-term," says the report. "And ensuring that all girls and women in the United States have access to sport and physical activity is key to the health and success of the nation."