The Science of Title IX

July 17, 2008

In Tuesday’s Science section of the New York Times, John Tierney looks at the effects Title IX could have in the science field, noting that the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy have begun using existing Title IX laws to enforce prohibitions against sex discrimination in education programs and activities receiving public funds. Unfortunately, Tierney’s analysis gets it all wrong, playing into the myths that have been circulated by Title IX opponents for years.

Tierney writes that evidence that women face discrimination in certain sciences is disputed. Interestingly, he completely overlooks the recent National Academy of Sciences report,
Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering
, which states, “It is not lack of talent, but unintentional biases and outmoded institutional structures that are hindering the access and advancement of women.”

He also incorrectly says that enforcing Title IX would lead to quotas that would hurt both male and female engineers, and he links this to false belief that Title IX has led to male college sports teams being cut. Number one, Title IX is not a quota. As applied to athletics, it is a flexible law with three different ways to comply. As for the scapegoating of Title IX when it comes to cuts to men’s sports, this claim has been effectively refuted over the years, including by studies by the GAO and the NCAA. This isn’t a zero-sum game; men’s chances to participate in school athletics—and in science fields—haven’t decreased at the expense of opening the door for women.

Title IX was designed to be a strong and comprehensive measure that would attack all forms of sex discrimination in education and, in so doing, provide access to educational opportunities formerly closed to women and girls. Over the last 36 years, Title IX has become one of our country’s greatest success stories. Our country is struggling to meet a need for increased participation in science fields to remain competitive in a global market. Especially now, why would anyone oppose Title IX’s potential in the science fields? Just imagine if it could do for the STEM fields what it has done for women’s and girls’ participation in athletics.

For more information, read AAUW’s press release on the recent anniversary of Title IX and our position papers on Title IX’s effect on equity in school athletics, single-sex education, sexual harassment, and STEM education. Check out AAUW’s new research report, Where the Girls Are, which shows that girls’ educational achievements have not come at the expense of boys. Earlier this year, the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education, chaired by AAUW, released a new report, Title IX at 35: Beyond the Headlines. You can also download AAUW’s Title IX Resource Kit for information on how to advocate for continued enforcement of the law.

Avatar By:   |   July 17, 2008


  1. Avatar Azakia says:

    I don’t think quotas are a good idea. Title IX may have done a lot of good in college sports, but the evidence that many and women differ in preference is over whelming. Why are their more women in psychology? Not because of Title IXs application because it hasn’t been applied there in quotas but because Psychology is one of the many empthasizing courses that women prefer. Introducing quotas will simply make both genders unhappy.

  2. Avatar saltlord says:

    So if more men got into teaching, nursing, and the social sciences, do you think there would be pay equity for EVERYONE? What is good for the goose…..

  3. Avatar steffan says:

    We also need Title IX applied to nursing, education and social science programs so that we get 50 % participation in these programs for men. Special scholarships and programs to encourage men to enter these fields need to be set up immediately. What is good for the goose……..

  4. Avatar slger says:

    Here is an outstanding resource for understanding the “science of bias”.

    Virginia Valian, “tutorials for change” from Hunter College, funded by NSF ADVANCE

    This set of narrated case studies leads to recommendations for mitigating the effects of subtle bias. This website should be considered as a literacy test for Mr. Tierney, university faculty and administrators, and the federal agencies themselves.

    It would be great to hear more feedback from faculty in departments subjected to federal agency bias pressure. Note that NSF, in particular, has lost EEO cases of retaliation against its own staff.

    From a contributor to AAUW LAF

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