. . . My friend Marilyn was able to study auto repair at a community college and work as a mechanic at Sears, because she needed a job that paid well.
. . . My niece Katie was offered a scholarship to pole-vault on a college track and field team, something that was unheard of in 1972, when I was a high school senior.
. . . My son Greg was able to meet his girlfriend in the University of Minnesota Marching Band last year. Until 1972, young women weren’t allowed in the U of M’s marching band. In 2006, they had their first drum major (shown above).
Because of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (sometimes known as the Equal Opportunity in Education Act), millions of young women—and young men—have equal access to educational programs and activities:
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 education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
The simplicity of the statute is deceptive, but the effects are far-reaching. And surprisingly, there isn’t a word about access to athletics, though that’s what Title IX is best known for.
Besides sports, Title IX also covers access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students (remember when girls were kicked out of school if they were pregnant?), employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing and technology.
Because of Title IX . . . women of my era had more opportunities, and now so do our sons and daughters.
There are numerous famous examples Title IX’s effects:
- Past U.S. Olympic champions like Mia Hamm, Jackie Joyner Kersee, and Lindsay Vonn
- The women who are about to become medalists later this month in the 2012 Summer Olympics
But just as important are everyday examples of Title IX’s effects:
- Half of the young doctors hired last year at the hospital where I work are women—neurosurgeons, neurologists, and orthopedic surgeons (including one who was also an Air Force fighter pilot). In 1970, about 10 percent of all medical students were women.
- Assistant Police Chief Janee Harteau has been nominated to replace outgoing Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan. Because of Title IX, Harteau had access to police officer training and could join the police force in 1987.
- My sons learned to cook and sew in a high school class called Family Life, but they wouldn’t have been allowed in home economics class in 1972.
Because of Title IX, it is no longer remarkable that women are doctors, lawyers, professors, architects, engineers, software programmers, members of the military, business owners and more.
And that, for me, is remarkable.
I was one of thousands of women who entered the professional workforce in 1979, when the world was changing rapidly. My unpublished memoir COLETTE’S LEGACY traces my personal and professional coming-of-age and puts a personal face on the social changes that transformed a generation.