Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center


Girls, Sports, and Equality: A State-by-State Ranking on Title IX

Public high schools across the country are not providing girls with their fair share of spots on sports teams—and today, on the 43rd anniversary of Title IX, we released a new analysis that shows every state is falling short. The analysis features an interactive map and a state-by-state ranking based on the percentage of high schools in each state and the District of Columbia that have large gender equity gaps in sports participation.*

Using the latest Department of Education Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2011-2012 school year we find that: Read more »

Turf Wars in the World Cup and Title IX

The Women's World Cup recently began in Canada, with the best soccer teams in the world facing off against one another in a thrilling tournament. I love the World Cup, and I watch most of the games that I can. There’s nothing more exciting than an unexpected goal, or a come-from-behind win in the last few minutes. This tournament is usually pretty identical to the men's World Cup, if not more exciting. However this time there's one glaring difference: the women are playing on turf. 

Blatant Gender Discrimination

Until this year, the FIFA World Cup has always been played on real grass. The men’s tournament hosted in Brazil last year was played on grass, and the 2018 and 2022 tournaments have also been scheduled to be played on grass. FIFA has long had issues with sexism, but this clear lack of respect for the women’s game has been too blatant to overlook. Read more »

WNBA Should Address Discrimination Issues

Last week marked the start of an exciting summer filled with women’s sports. While the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off in Canada, the WNBA’s 2015 season began in the United States. However, the opening games have been overshadowed by controversy.

Former NBA player and coach Isiah Thomas was named president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty in May. This news comes eight years after a jury found that Isiah Thomas sexually harassed a former team executive while he was the president and coach of the NBA’s New York Knicks. Before the lawsuit was ultimately settled out of court, the jury concluded that Thomas sexually harassed an employee (though the jury did not decide whether he had to pay damages) and that Madison Square Garden, the Knicks’ owner, improperly fired the woman for complaining about the harassment.  Read more »

New Report Shows How Girls of Color Are Doubly Disadvantaged in Access to School Sports Opportunities

Venus and Serena Williams, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Jessica Mendoza, Michelle Wie... The sheer excellence of these female athletes of color might lead one to think that the playing field is finally level, for all girls and women. But the sad truth is that high schools across the country still do not give girls equal opportunities to play sports, and girls of color are doubly disadvantaged. That’s the main message of a report released today by the National Women’s Law Center and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, which presents new data in a new way to highlight athletic disparities on the basis of race and gender.  

Because data on sports opportunities, or spots on teams, are not available by gender and race together, the report compares the opportunities provided by heavily minority schools (where 10 percent or less of the students are white) and heavily white schools (where 90 percent or more of the students are white). The major findings of the report are: Read more »

Title IX Enforcement Funding Gets a Boost in the President's Budget

In 1973, legendary female tennis player Billie Jean King faced taunts and disbelief when she played Bobby Riggs in the famously televised “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. 

This week, Serena Williams won her 19th grand slam title.

Today we celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day. We are reminded this week how far girls and women have come in sports since 1972 when Title IX was passed: women’s participation in collegiate athletics climbed from less than 16 percent in 1972 to 44 percent in the 2010-11 academic year.  Though women’s sports participation is far from equal, last year girls’ participation in high school sports hit a record-high: girls make up almost 42 percent of high school athletes. Read more »

Alert the Media: Women Play Basketball Too

It’s March Madness time, but if you only read the papers, you wouldn’t know that women are even playing basketball. Last weekend when I was on vacation, I picked up a USA Today and in the entire sports section, there was not one mention of any women’s games. It’s as though the women’s tournament doesn’t exist. The NYT Public Editor’s Journal blog recently bemoaned the lack of coverage of the women’s tournament as well. In general, women receive only about 6-8% of the total newspaper sports coverage. Coverage on TV is also far from equal, but I suppose we should be grateful that ESPN is at least broadcasting most games in the women’s tournament. Read more »

Indianapolis Joins the 21st Century and Agrees to Equal Access in Sports

For the 2010-11 school year, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) had approximately 50 percent girls and 50 percent boys enrolled in high school. Yet the school gave girls only 35 percent of the total athletic opportunities.

The 15-percentage point disparity was not based on a lack of interest in sports. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education initiated an investigation and found that IPS’s athletic program failed to provide girls equal opportunity. IPS provided fewer sports for girls, and for those sports that were provided, the female teams received inferior treatment with respect to practice fields, locker rooms, equipment, supplies, and the scheduling of practice times and games.   Read more »

Nine Ways Title IX Changed My Life

Although I was an athlete in high school, I don’t recall hearing anyone talk about National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) during those years. When I asked one of my former coaches about it, she told me that our school chose a group of girls each year to participate in NGWSD activities held at a local university. I was glad to hear this, but surprised that there was so little known about this day and its purpose. As I reflect on this day, and the importance of Title IX in sports, I thought I’d share my list of the nine things Title IX did for me: Read more »

Introduction of DC’s “Title IX Athletic Equity Act of 2013” Shows that Data Matters

Yesterday I got to see how local government can provide tools to help fight for a level playing field in athletics. Together with the Sankofa Project, the Center was proud to be recognized for their work on a bill introduced by D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie with unanimous Council support.

The proposed legislation would require D.C. public schools to disclose certain key athletics equity data by gender on an annual basis, such as

  • enrollment and sports participation numbers by gender and race;
  • coach-to-athlete ratios;
  • compensation, qualifications and duties of coaches;
  • funding sources and spending;
  • scheduling and post-season play;
  • training and academic support; and
  • quality of facilities and equipment.

Under the bill, all of this information would be required to be publicly available on the city’s website. Read more »

ESPN Launches Title IX Series and Reminds Us that We Still Have a Long Way to Go

Yesterday ESPN aired the first of nine films celebrating Title IX in its “Nine for IX” series. The first one, “Venus Vs.,” is about Venus Williams’ fight for equal pay for women at Wimbledon. While it is a triumphant story in many ways, I couldn’t help but be struck (and frustrated), as I always am, at the slow pace of progress.

The fight for equal pay at Wimbledon, much like the fight for equal pay for women in general, has been going on for decades. In tennis, Billie Jean King started the effort that Venus helped bring to fruition.

Similarly, on the playing fields of our nation’s schools, the battle for gender equity rages on. Over forty years after Title IX was passed, girls are still not receiving equal chances to play or equal benefits when they do. Read more »