A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Title IX: 25 Years of Progress -- June 1997

Achieving Success Under Title IX

Title IX, as a landmark civil rights law, profoundly affects all aspects of schooling by requiring equal opportunity for females and males. By extension, it also affects equity in the labor market. The following highlights suggest many of the significant developments in gender equity that can be linked to Title IX.

Changing Expectations

Since its passage in 1972, Title IX has had a profound impact on helping to change attitudes, assumptions and behavior and consequently, our understanding about how sexual stereotypes can limit educational opportunities. We now know, for example, that gender is a poor predictor of one's interests, proficiency in academic subjects, or athletic ability. As the First Circuit Court of Appeals noted in a recent Title IX case, "interest and ability rarely develop in a vacuum; they evolve as a function of opportunity and experience." Decision making in schools and in the labor market that relies on gender to assess what students and employees know and are able to do is both archaic and ineffective.

Lowering the drop-out rate

Title IX has played a part in lowering the dropout rate among high school females who become pregnant or have a child. The law prohibits schools from suspending, expelling, or discriminating against them in educational programs and activities due to their status as mothers. In addition, because becoming pregnant and having a child while in high school correlate strongly with dropping out of school, many school districts have opened alternative schools for this population to help them persist in school and graduate. The results are very positive: although the childbearing rates rose between 1980 and 1990 from fewer than 1 percent to 2.5 percent, dropout rates declined 30 percent during the same period, precisely at a time when graduation requirements were raised.

Teenage Mother Allowed to Graduate

A parent in the Chicago area contacted the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) when her teenage daughter--who had given birth earlier in the year--was denied the opportunity to take a final examination because the teacher disapproved of the girl's pregnancy and her excused absences from school due to childbirth. Without a grade on the final exam, the student would not be allowed to graduate. OCR contacted the school district and received assurance that the student could take her exam. She did, and received her diploma.

Increasing the opportunities in math and science

The United States is among only 11 of 41 countries in the recently released Third International Math and Science Study with no gender gap in grade 8 mathematics and science. A gender gap still exists, however, in science achievement at the 12th-grade level for females. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, male were more likely than females to increase their science proficiency level between the 8th and 12th grades, by 56 and 51 percent respectively.

Overall, both male and female students were more likely to take more sophisticated mathematics courses by 1992 than they were in 1982, with females less likely than males to take remedial mathematics, more likely to take algebra II, and just as likely to take trigonometry and calculus. The same is true for advanced science courses, with females more likely than males to study biology and just as likely to take chemistry, and boys more likely to study physics. In 1994, 68 percent of females took algebra, 70 percent took geometry, and 9 percent took calculus--similar to the percentage of males taking those courses. In the same year, 95 percent of females took biology and 59 percent took chemistry--higher than the rates of 92 and 53 percent, respectively, for their male classmates.

In college, many more women are majoring in math, as evidenced by the proportion of undergraduate degrees in math awarded to women: 47 percent in 1992, compared to 27 percent in 1962. This may be the result of the advances made in their preparation in high school in math and science during the decade 1982-1992, as shown in figure 3.

Increasing the completion of postsecondary, graduate and professional degrees

Women are now graduating from college in record numbers and for the first time in America's history, their numbers are proportionate to those of men: by 1994, women were earning bachelor's degrees at the same rate as men, with both at 27 percent. In 1971, however, only 18 percent of young women had completed four or more years of college compared to 26 percent of young men. By 2006, women are projected to earn 55 percent of all bachelor's degrees.

In 1992, women also earned the majority of associate's (296,800) and master's degrees (191,000), reversing the 1977 pattern of men earning the majority of them (207,500 and 161,800, respectively).

Between 1977 and 1994, the number of U.S. women earning doctoral degrees almost doubled, from just over 7,500 to almost 14,000. This represents a jump from 25 percent in 1977 to 44 percent in 1994 of total doctoral degrees conferred.

During the period 1972-1994, the percentage of first-professional degrees earned by women also rose dramatically: from 7 percent to 43 percent of all law degrees; from 9 percent to 38 percent of all medical degrees; and from 1 percent to 38 percent of all dental degrees. In veterinary science and pharmacy women earned the majority of degrees in 1994.

In certain nontraditional areas such as business, women's degrees increased dramatically, from 8 percent in 1962 to 47 percent in 1992. This development in particular is expected to have a profound impact on women's earnings potential: women who choose careers in nontraditional fields can expect to have lifetime earnings that are as much as 150 percent of those of women who choose careers in traditional fields.

"My personal experience has shown me that while the situation for women in science in the United States is by no means perfect, it is the best one in this world of ours."--Dominique Homberger, Swiss-born professor of zoology, Louisiana State University

Women are also increasing the number of science classes they take in college. In the biological sciences, for example, women earned only 28 percent of college degrees in 1962 but increased their proportion to 52 percent by 1992. The gap between men's and women's master's degrees in the life sciences, physical sciences, engineering and computer sciences has also narrowed over time. In 1950, only 175 women received bachelor's degrees in engineering--compared to more than 52,000 men. By 1966, women were earning a greater number of engineering degrees, but the proportion of the total was still less than one-half of 1 percent. By 1991, it had risen to more than 15 percent.

As the number of women who study the sciences increases, so does the proportion of women who receive graduate degrees in those fields. In 1993, women earned 20 percent of doctorates in science and engineering, up from less than 9 percent in 1973. At all levels--bachelor's, master's and doctoral--women's rates of receiving degrees have risen significantly in the fields of mathematical, physical, and biological sciences and engineering.

Opening up the Professions and Opportunities for Employment

The many gains that have been made in giving women new opportunities to advance their education have had and continue to have a direct impact in opening up the professions and giving women the opportunity to seek employment in nontraditional fields. In 1993-94 women made up 58 percent of postsecondary vocational education students.

Women have also made significant inroads in speciality fields. For example, the proportion of women gynecologists/obstetricians rose from 8 percent in 1970 to 39 percent in 1995, an increase similar to increases in their numbers in the field of medicine overall. Just as medical schools had discouraged young women from admission, so had some nursing schools discouraged young men. In 1972, the rate of men graduating with nursing degrees was only 1 percent. In 1996, the rate rose to 5 percent.


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Last Updated -- July 10, 1997, (pjk)