Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Title IX: Ensures Equality In Education
By Janet Bandows Koster (pictured on left) and Betty Shanahan
Recent efforts by federal agencies to verify university compliance with Title IX are under scrutiny. Some claim Title IX compliance reviews are a “new” way to apply the law to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), but this law has been applicable to all educational programs receiving federal funds for 36 years. Title IX compliance can open the doors to the so-called “male-typical pursuits” in STEM fields to women, just as equal opportunity mandates have done for once-closed careers of firefighters, police officers and military personnel.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. It requires gender equity for boys and girls, men and women in every educational program that receives federal funding - not just in college sports. It also authorizes and directs federal funding agencies to implement the provisions of the law.
A 2004 Government Accountability Office report noted that the federal agencies have not discharged their obligations to ensure that educational institutions comply with the statues. In fact, most only passively receive statements of compliance with Title IX -- usually in the form of a pro forma assertion.
Title IX compliance reviews can help to confirm that academic institutions receiving federal funding establish a climate that ensures a representation of women in STEM disciplines that reflects their level of interest. Any difference in participation, then, is a result of the personal interests of women and not due to environmental factors that discourage them from entering or remaining in these fields.
There have been several recent articles arguing that women don't want to be scientists and engineers, and that those of us advocating for more women in these fields are not acknowledging innate gender-specific career inclinations. In fact, the problems encountered by women considering a STEM career vary by discipline. The low number of women earning degrees in physics, chemistry, computer science and engineering is often attributed to a lack of interest, but the fact that many women with excellent academic performance enter but later abandon these fields suggests otherwise.