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Dr. Mark Holodick is Delaware’s secretary of education. Melanie Ross Levin is the director of the Delaware Office of Women’s Advancement and Advocacy.
As we mark National Girls & Women in Sports Day on Feb. 1, we commend all women athletes, celebrate their past and current sports achievements, and acknowledge the positive influence of sports participation. We also acknowledge the continuing struggle for equality. In Delaware, we have a proud track record of supporting girls and women in sports. Our small state is full of incredible female athletes, including some with worldwide recognition, like WNBA player and Olympic gold medalist Elena Delle Donne and five-time member of the U.S. women’s national gymnastics team and 2017 world all-around champion gymnast Morgan Elizabeth Hurd.
Both Elena and Morgan were lucky to grow up in a time where women and girls had opportunities to play sports. Unfortunately, before the passage of Title IX in 1972, things looked very different for female athletes. According to Title IX, “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 education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Prior to 1972, while 3.6 million boys participated in high school sports, just under 300,000 girls participated. Fortunately, since the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, girls’ participation in high school sports has increased by over 3 million. In short, Title IX has opened the doors for girls to unlock their limitless potential and pursue their dreams through athletic participation.
Years of extensive national research have shown girls who play sports earn better grades, see more success in male-dominated fields and lead healthier lives. The impact continues even after they leave their sport — 92% of female C-suite-level executives are former athletes, and half played sports at the collegiate level. While sports inspire youth to be positive, healthy and confident, historically, boys have had more opportunities to achieve their athletic goals. That male advantage in sports continues today, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, which notes that, today, girls still have 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play high school sports than boys.
Despite over 50 years of progress, we know that we have more work to do for Delaware women and girls to see the full promise of Title IX. We are committed to meeting Title IX requirements to provide girls with the tools they need to reach their athletic goals. When it comes to physical and social-emotional health, Delaware strives to offer girls as many opportunities as possible. That’s why the Delaware Department of Education and the Office of Women’s Advancement and Advocacy have spent the last several months developing a plan to strengthen Title IX in the state of Delaware. The plan focuses our efforts in three main areas:
Through these Title IX enhancements, Delaware is furthering its commitment to assuring equity in athletics. The Department of Education and the Office of Women’s Advancement and Advocacy will collaborate with the local education agencies to support athletics by proactively identifying potential issues and allowing for timely resolution.
While not every Delaware girl will be the next Elena Delle Donne or Morgan Elizabeth Hurd, it is our commitment to make sure all girls can gain the many benefits of playing sports. And, with this plan in place, Delaware will be poised to continue to build on the promise of Title IX for future generations.