Title IX was signed into law 40 years ago and changed the game for female athletes. (AP)

Title IX was signed into law 40 years ago and changed the game for female athletes. (AP)

Title IX was passed into law on June 23, 1972.

It’s known as the law that changed collegiate sports, but there is no mention of sports in the language of the legislation. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, four-time Olympic medalist and the Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation, told Bill Littlefield that the initial design of the law was to provide women with better education opportunities.

“Education, in this country, is how people advance both economically and socially,” she said. “So it has transformed the country as we know it.”

Hogshead-Makar took issue with the notion that athletics was the area most affected by Title IX. “Athletics is where you see it,” she said. “It’s one of the few areas in all of education that is sex-segregated….because of the real sex differences between boys and girls after puberty, if you want to give women and girls en masse sports opportunities , you have to separate them.”

She said that before Title IX, there were fewer than 300,000 girls playing high school sports in the U.S. That number has grown to over three million girls today. There are now five times more women competing in college sports than there were in the pre-Title IX era.

The perception of women as athletes has changed as well.  ”It’s hard to hold stereotypes about women being second-class citizens or not as accomplished when you see the (U.S.) women’s soccer team competing in the World Cup against Japan in the finals,” Hogshead-Makar said. “You can’t hold those two ideas simultaneously.”

When asked whether it was fair to say that most colleges now comply with Title IX, Hogshead-Makar disagreed, saying that 57 percent of American college students are female while only 43 percent of college athletic opportunities are for women. “The split between men and women has actually grown over the last 10 years,” she said.