WASHINGTON — The Nikkei women members of Congress released statements last week commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, commonly known as Title IX.
This federal law protects students from sex discrimination in federally supported education programs and activities. Introduced by Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii), the landmark legislation was enacted on June 23, 1972. Title IX was a bipartisan achievement – passed by a Democratic-led Congress and signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
Title IX has provided women with equal access to educational opportunities, making it possible for them to pursue careers in science, technology, law, engineering, and math. It also ensures an academic environment free of sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment and violence.
Since Title IX’s passage, the number of girls who compete in high school sports has grown from fewer than 300,000 in 1972 to more than 3 million today. Similarly, the number of young women who participate in college sports has grown from fewer than 30,000 in 1972 to more than 190,000 today.
Elected to the Territorial House in 1956 and the Territorial Senate in 1959, Mink was the first woman of color elected to Congress, serving in the House of Representatives from 1965 to 1977 and again from 1990 until her death in 2002. She ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972; was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as assistant secretary of state for oceans, international, environmental and scientific affairs in 1977; became national president of Americans for Democratic Action in 1978; was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 1982; and ran for governor of Hawaii in 1986 and mayor of Honolulu in 1988.
“Title IX marked a milestone in equality and opportunity for America’s young women,” said Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii). “In the classroom, in sports, and in life, a major part of Patsy Mink’s legacy has been outstanding women having a chance to compete fairly and excel on their own merits. We see the results today in the achievements of women, not only those who benefited directly from Title IX’s guarantees of equality in education and sports programs, but also those who found an atmosphere of equality and respect in which to compete.
“In 2000, the Hawaii Legislature demonstrated our state-level commitment to the provisions of Title IX by passing the Hawaii Discrimination in Athletics law. As a state senator, I supported that bill and from 2000-2003 I served proudly on the Advisory Committee on Gender Equity in Sports it created. I was also able to provide improved athletic facilities to female athletes in my district.
“Having practiced as a labor lawyer, working in an area traditionally dominated by men, I know that treating young women as equals in all areas of their lives helps foster a conviction that success is not a matter of gender; it is a matter of finding a fair chance to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities presented.
“Our experience today continues to demonstrate how vital the passage of Title IX was. We cannot not forget that it took someone like Patsy Mink to have the vision and desire to move Title IX from an important idea to effective law.
“While America widely accepts equality in sports and education as part of our social fabric, we continue to see that real equality is not automatically ensured, as illustrated by continuing opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps victims of pay discrimination effectively challenge unequal pay.
“Sadly, we also find ongoing resistance to ensuring women’s reproductive rights and access to effective and affordable healthcare. I gladly look at this anniversary as a chance to reflect on past success, but also to find inspiration to make further efforts for the work that remains to be done.”
“In the four decades since the passage of Title IX, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in opportunities for girls and women in every facet of American life,” said Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “Women make up almost half of law school and medical school graduates. Soccer fields, softball diamonds, and basketball courts across the country are filled with girls and women playing organized league sports. Women are now represented in almost every kind of job.
“On this anniversary, we must never forget why this legislation was needed in the first place and why we must continue to protect and strengthen it. Hawaii’s own Patsy Mink, who co-authored Title IX, was denied access to medical school because she was a woman. Patsy’s personal experience of the sting of sex discrimination drove her efforts, motivating her to attend the University of Chicago Law School.
“I am proud to have known Patsy Mink — to have been inspired by her and to have called her friend. On Title IX’s 40th birthday, I am sure Patsy would agree we still have a long way to go until we truly reach gender equity.
“Women still don’t earn equal pay for equal work. Women are still underrepresented in high wage fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math. Even in sports, women’s and girls’ teams still do not receive an equal share of resources.
“While we take this opportunity to thank the pioneers who have laid the groundwork for Title IX, we must remain diligent and continue to build and expand on the work that’s been done these past 40 years.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) commented, “As we celebrate the 40-year anniversary of Title IX, I honor those who fought tirelessly to pave the way for future generations and thank them for their dedication to ensuring that women and girls have the same opportunities as males in both academics and athletics.”