Title IX 40 for 40: Arne Duncan
Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education,
learned a variety of life lessons as a player on Harvard’s
men’s basketball team. During his senior season, Duncan was
co-captain for the Crimson and led the team in scoring, with 16.9
points per game. He was also named first-team Academic
All-American. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1987
with a degree in Sociology and went on to play basketball
professionally for four years, mostly in Australia’s National
Basketball League. After his stint in the pros, Duncan returned to
the United States, where he began his career in education at the
Ariel Education Initiative. He continued his work in the field as
the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools before President
Barack Obama tapped him as Secretary of Education.
In May, Duncan was one of five to be inducted into the
CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-America Hall of Fame.
What impact has Title IX had on you/college athletics?
Secretary Duncan: Title IX’s impact on college athletics has been profound, and it is most apparent when you look at the number of girls and women playing sports today. When Title IX was enacted in 1972, less than 30,000 female students participated in sports and recreational programs at NCAA member institutions nationwide. By 2011, that number had increased over six-fold to 191,000. And at the high school level, the number of girls participating in athletics has increased ten-fold since 1972, to over three million girls in 2011. This increased access to sports had a personal impact on my family. I played college sports, and so did my sister. She was a much better basketball player than I and played a couple of years overseas. Contrast that experience with my mother’s, who was the best athlete in our family. But, like so many women of her generation, her opportunities to play college sports were severely limited. My mother and sister’s experiences illustrate the difference that Title IX made for women in sports and in the span of only one generation.
Do you feel that equal opportunity in intercollegiate
Secretary Duncan: Although female student athletes have made great strides since 1972, inequities still exist in intercollegiate athletics. The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) continues to receive numerous complaints of disparities in scholarships, facilities, coaching, and equipment. And the participation numbers, though illustrating a dramatic improvement over the past four decades, show that female student athletes do not participate in sports in numbers comparable to their enrollment. According to the NCAA’s Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates, women make up 57 percent of college students but receive only 43 percent of positions on varsity sports teams.
What opportunities for women did Title IX help
Secretary Duncan: The educational opportunities that Title IX has created for women are too numerous to name. Obviously, women’s participation in athletics has skyrocketed. But, so has their representation in many professions that were male-dominated in 1972. Back then, for instance, fewer than one in ten JDs and MDs were earned by women. Today, women earn almost as many law and medical degrees as men. And the opportunities don’t stop with education. The economic returns of Title IX have been immense. One study of Title IX by Wharton professor Betsey Stevenson found that up to 40 percent of the overall rise in employment among women in the 25- to 34-year-old age group was attributable to Title IX.
What has Title IX done for women outside of the sports
Secretary Duncan: Title IX reaches far beyond the basketball court or the softball field. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity offered by a recipient of federal funds, so it reaches almost every aspect of education. And, while Title IX has led to indisputable progress in education for girls and women, there is certainly more work to be done. For example, President Obama has noted that Title IX “does not even mention sports” but that it has “the potential to make similar, striking advances in the opportunities that girls have in the STEM disciplines.” The Department of Education continues to work hard to ensure that schools make available rigorous standards that help prepare all students—regardless of sex—for both college and career, including access to science, technology, engineering, and math curricula (the STEM disciplines). Additionally, OCR continues to enforce Title IX with respect to sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools, a problem that still confronts far too many girls and young women. Along with its enforcement efforts, OCR has issued guidance to schools, colleges, and universities on their obligation to prevent, and respond to, such conduct. Title IX also prohibits discrimination against pregnant and parenting students, who before Title IX were often forced to drop out of school. We will continue to make sure that the rights of women are protected—and that discrimination in any of these areas is not tolerated.