On the 25th anniversary of Title IX it seems fitting to suggest that America is a more equal, more educated and more prosperous nation because of the far-reaching effects of this legislation.
Much has been accomplished in the classroom and on the playing field and we have many reasons to celebrate the success of Title IX in expanding our nation's definition of equality. With Title IX, we affirm what can be accomplished when we allow all Americans--men and women--an equal opportunity to be their best.
What strikes me the most about the progress that has been achieved since Title IX was passed in 1972 is that there has been a sea change in our expectations of what women can achieve. More important, women have shown skeptics again and again that females are fully capable of being involved as successful and active participants in every realm of American life. Women astronauts from Sally Ride to Shannon Lucid have made their mark in space even as Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers have led the women's national soccer team to Olympic glory and the World Championship. Women have entered the medical and legal professions in record numbers and we have seen a fourfold increase in women's participation in intercollegiate athletics.
The great untold story of success that resulted from the passage of Title IX is surely the progress that has been achieved in education. In 1971, only 18 percent of all women, compared to 26 percent of all men, had completed four or more years of college. This education gap no longer exists. Women now make up the majority of students in America's colleges and universities in addition to making up the majority of recipients of master's degrees. Indeed, the United States has become a world leader in giving women the opportunity to receive a higher education.
Accompanying this untold story of success is the too frequently told story of the barriers that women continue to encounter--despite their history of accomplishments and despite the history of the legislation that protects them from such barriers. Too many women still confront the problem of sexual harassment, women still lag behind men in gaining a decent wage, and only one-third of all intercollegiate athletic scholarships are granted to women. Clearly, much more remains to be done to ensure that every American is given an equal opportunity to achieve success without encountering the obstacle of gender bias.
But of this I am sure: somewhere in America today there are young women who are studying hard and achieving success on the athletic field who even now may be thinking hard about their careers as scientists, business owners, basketball players, or even the possibility of becoming president of the United States. They may not know of the existence of Title IX, but Title IX will be there for them should any of them encounter a skeptic who does not believe that they can succeed and be part of the American Dream.
Richard W. Riley
U.S. Secretary of Education