Title IX 40 for 40: Dr. Amy Gutmann
Dr. Amy Gutmann has served as President of the
University of Pennsylvania since 2004, but her Ivy League ties go
back to her days as a student at Harvard-Radcliffe College, both as
an undergraduate (Radcliffe) and graduate (Harvard), as well as a
distinguished career as a professor and administrator at Princeton.
Prior to her appointment as Penn’s President, Dr. Gutmann
worked at Princeton for 28 years, including her final three as the
Provost of the university. In addition to her duties of President
at Penn, Dr. Gutmann was appointed by President Barack Obama in
2009 to chair the Presidential Commission for the Study of
Bioethical Issues. She sits on the Boards of a variety of groups
and in 2011 was named by Newsweek one of the “150
Women Who Shake the World.”
What more can be done to improve women’s athletics?
President Gutmann: More can and must be done. But, first, it is essential for everyone to recognize that since its passage in 1972, Title IX has had a transformative effect that exponentially improved the opportunities for women to participate in secondary and collegiate athletics.
More work remains to be done at all levels, including increasing support for the intervarsity, club and recreational interests of women that would continue breaking down barriers to their equal participation and increasing their representation at the top as well, in coaching, athletic director and other leadership positions.
What effects will Title IX have for the younger generation?
President Gutmann: We will know Title IX is a complete success when younger generations of women can take for granted their fully equal access to opportunities, which is the principled purpose of the law. When young women know that they have access to equal opportunities in education—across the board—we will have achieved something truly historic in magnitude and scope.
Title IX had its greatest effect by paving the way for outstanding achievements—and role models— in women’s athletics. Extraordinary coaches such as Penn Softball Coach Leslie King and legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt serve as role models for scholar-athletes across the country. Incredible Olympians such as Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Penn alumna Susan Francia are role models for both girls and boys by virtue of the character they demonstrate on and off the field. Younger generations of women and men alike take note of the greater representation of Ivy League women in the Olympics. For example, Penn undergraduates—women and men alike—take pride in the fact that since 1972, Penn has been represented at the Olympics by female alumni 18 times, winning five medals (one gold, one silver, and three bronze).
When one takes into account the success of women throughout the Ivy League, the demonstrable effect of Title IX, which is so motivational to young women, is multiplied many fold. As Penn’s President, I cannot help but take great pride in the fact that Penn has had 154 female All-Americans in their respective sports, which could be no more than a dream when I was a student in the Ivy League.
What opportunities for women did Title IX help create?
President Gutmann: Anyone who has participated in collegiate athletics or team sports knows the lessons learned: leadership, teamwork, strategic thinking, persistence and hard work, among many others.
Title IX expressed the very same philosophy at the same time as it helped to lay the public policy foundations for women to become community and political leaders, chief executive officers, athletic directors, and—of course—college presidents.
In the first two years after its passage, the number of high school girls playing sports jumped from 300,000 to 1.3 million. And today, to take the example I know best, Penn is home to 15 varsity sports teams for women with close to 350 participants, winning one NCAA women’s team title (Fencing in 1986) and appearing in three NCAA women’s final fours (Lacrosse in 2007, 2008, and 2009). Since 1972, Penn has won 67 women’s league championships. In addition, there are dozens of club sports and recreational activities for women who are interested in athletics.
What has Title IX done for women outside of the sports realm?
President Gutmann: Title IX helped to send the same strong message needed to increase access to opportunities to pursue degrees in “non-traditional” fields and to hold colleges accountable for working to ensure gender equity across all fields on our campuses. To cite just one important example, in the first decade after Title IX became law, the percentage of undergraduate women enrolled in engineering at Penn increased over 7-fold, from about 3 percent to 23 percent. Today, that increase has become 10-fold: Penn engineering enrolls 30 percent women as undergraduates. Equally important, Title IX stands as a powerful reminder that we have much more work to do in order to realize full equality of opportunity for women in academics and athletics.
Title IX compelled educational institutions across the country to promote equity for women and girls. Leadership roles in schools, on campuses, and across the nation became available as we systematically worked to allow all students to pursue their interests to the best of the abilities.
Most important, Title IX has contributed to our ongoing quest for women to be judged on the basis of their potential and their achievements, not on the basis of gender stereotypes. The greater our ongoing success in this quest, the greater the win for humanity.