Girls’ Sports Opportunities Show Greater Gap

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University report claims the gender gap in sports opportunities has widened.

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This summer U.S. women outnumbered men on the Olympic team and took home almost twice as many gold medals as their male counterparts.  Such achievement by female athletes in the United States might suggest the success of Title IX, the federal law on gender equity that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.  Yet a new report suggests that the gender gap in sports has actually widened over the last decade.

Prior to the enactment of Title IX, which bans discrimination based on gender at educational programs that receive federal assistance, only about 300,000 girls participated in high school sports. Today more than 3 million do.

Nevertheless, a study from the SHARP Center at the University of Michigan suggests that boys still outnumber girls in high school sporting activities because boys were offered more sports opportunities over the last thirty years. The study found that sporting opportunities increased for both boys and girls across the country but they increased disproportionately for boys across all types of high schools and all regions.

The researchers recommend greater enforcement of Title IX requirements and have called on federal lawmakers to pass legislation that requires high schools to report their compliance numbers.

In January, 2011, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced a bill aimed at holding high schools accountable for their compliance with Title IX, but the bill never left committee.

Despite the lack of federal action on this issue, four states (Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New Mexico, and Georgia) have passed mandates requiring high schools to report on Title IX compliance.

The Pennsylvania law was tucked into a larger overhaul of the school code and went into effect just as the 2012-2013 school year began. The Women’s Law Project hopes that this bill, which mandates that the Pennsylvania Department of Education provide basic information about each school’s compliance on a publicly accessible website, will allow parents and students greater insight into whether their schools are following Title IX.

Despite problems with Title IX compliance, recent research reinforces the value of female athletic participation.  According to the Student Athlete Climate Study, female student athletes are more academically successful than their male counterparts.