June 23, 2012
WASHINGTON - In 1955, Kathleen White (C'57) of the Georgetown sailing team became the first female athlete to win a varsity "G" on the Hilltop. Five years later, in 1960, women's intercollegiate sports in basketball, field hockey and tennis were organized at the University.
Twelve years later, in 1972, Georgetown introduced women's volleyball as an intercollegiate sport.
Forty years later, on this date - June 23 - in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into law Title IX of the Education Act Amendments.
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Sec. 901. [20 U.S.C. 1681] (a)
Those 37 words opened up a world of opportunities for girls and women in education. According to a recent study by R. Vivian Acosta, Ph.D., and Linda Jean Carpenter, Ph.D., in 1970 there were only about 16,000 female intercollegiate student-athletes. Today that number has grown to 200,000. Similarly, in 1971 fewer than 300,000 girls participated in high school sports. Forty years later, more than 3.1 million girls play interscholastic sports.
"It's important that we recognize and celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX," Georgetown Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Lee Reed said. "Georgetown is proud of its history in women's athletics, but the true impact of the legislation is not just on the playing fields, but in the classrooms and the success women have made in the professional world. Our current challenge is to continue to provide opportunities that will showcase academic, athletic and career achievement in the future."
Georgetown student-athletes know that they have reaped the benefits of Title IX. Rising senior women's soccer player Christina O'Tousa (Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor) said that without the legislation her team, which became an intercollegiate sport in 1991 at Georgetown, may not have had the chance to become a reality.
"Obviously, without Title IX, this team may not exist for me to play on if the legislation had not been implemented," O'Tousa said. "But I also think that the progress it enabled for women's sports was incredibly significant for reducing gender stereotypes and challenging social norms that once subtly hindered women from achieving powerful positions in life."
Katie Brophy, head coach for the Hoyas women's golf team, was selected to the NCAA Women Coaches Academy and the Alliance for Women Coaches and has heard what women faced prior to Title IX. She also had the opportunity to meet with many of the contributors to Title IX, including Charlotte West, a former athletic director at Southern Illinois, and Christine Grant, a former athletic director at Iowa, who were pioneers for Title IX
"As a young coach, I have been fortunate to have countless opportunities in sport," Brophy said. "I have listened to the plight of the many women who lived through grade school and high school years where there were no sports teams for girls and I cannot imagine that.
"As someone who has chosen athletics as a career, Title IX means everything to me. It meant I was able to play a variety of sports growing up--tennis, volleyball, basketball, and cross country. When I got more serious with golf, I was afforded amazing opportunities to travel all over the United States and seven other countries to play. As a member of the first class of golf scholarships at Notre Dame, my college education can be directly attributed to the women and men who fought for a good part of this century to pass Title IX. I will be forever grateful to them for how they have leveraged my own life and the lives of the women I coach."
As the coach for the women's golf team at Georgetown, which was added as an intercollegiate sport in 2002, Brophy sees a special part of the impact of Title IX.
"Our program is a direct beneficiary and one that I find to be very impactful in my personal and my professional life," Brophy said. "As a coach, the best part of my job is that I get to create a positive environment in which my student-athletes can expound upon their university education. I love that athletics is the vehicle in which young people can learn great life lessons of perseverance, teamwork, and especially in the sport of golf--patience."
The opportunities that current student-athletes have are ones that many don't realize came without a great deal of sacrifice, O'Tousa said.
"It has changed the entire college experience for women and I know that I would be a very different person today if I felt that I couldn't achieve my goals because I was a woman," she explained. "For me, it is a very comforting feeling to know that as long as I put in the effort, extraneous variables, such as my gender, aren't going to prevent me from reaching success."