Meet Kim Turner, a living embodiment of Title IX since she was a young athlete. Her passion for sports led her to play Division 1 volleyball for Brown University. Kim has a decade of experience as a nonprofit Title IX attorney. Kim serves as an Advisory Council member for the nonprofit Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI) and served as a member of the expert review panel for the Women’s Sports Foundation report: “50 Years of Title IX: We’re Not Done Yet.” She currently serves as the Director of the Gender Equity Initiative at Positive Coaching Alliance, advancing sports-based gender equity for girls, coaches, schools, youth sports stakeholders, and community programs. Aside from her career, these days you’ll find Kim coaching youth sports and enjoying any and all pick-up games with family, friends, and colleagues in California’s Bay Area.
Below, Kim helps us understand the meaning of the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Title IX requires gender equity in any and all federally-funded educational programs — from preschools to high schools, and colleges and universities. These federally-funded programs include school athletic programs. The passing of Title IX is significant because it recognized that gender equity was lacking in federally-funded educational programs and in communities nationwide.
GL: What has Title IX meant for girls, women, and their participation in sports?
KT: When Title IX was passed, fewer than 300,000 girls were playing high school sports; today over 3 million girls are playing high school sports (boys have 4+ million slots). So many more women are playing college sports today as well. And in terms of professional level sports, approximately 20% of pro athletes are women. Girls and women have always loved and wanted to play sports — Title IX simply makes sure that federally-funded schools and institutions offer fair and gender-equitable programs.
GL: What does it mean to have gender equity in youth sports and sports in general?
KT: Gender equity means, for example, that girls’ and boys’ teams in a middle, high school, or college, have equitable amenities, such as uniform quality, schedules, opportunities for coaching, quality facilities, and supportive publicity, equipment, and more. Indeed, there are many aspects of gender equity, yet my work has concentrated on more girls getting to play, on a “level playing field,” and more women coaching — especially in communities of color and low-income areas.
Girls and women, from professional athletes to tech leaders and many others, are striving for gender equity in their sports, leagues, workplaces, and society. The U.S. women’s soccer team campaign for equity, the National Women’s Hockey League*, and the WNBA players are among millions working to level the playing field for everyone.
GL: What else does Title IX support?
- Equitable Participation Opportunities: Title IX requires equitable opportunities for students to play sports. Ideally, if there are 50% girls in a student body, there should be roughly 50% athletics slots across teams afforded to girls, responsive to girls’ and students’ interests. Title IX doesn’t require “quotas” or that girls have to play; the school should simply offer teams, sports, and offerings in a gender-equitable, inclusive way.
- Equitable Treatment and Benefit: Title IX requires equitable treatment and benefits across the board of an athletics program such that girls’ and boys’ teams should have equitable scheduling, equipment and supplies, and coaching support. All teams of a school’s athletic program should be examined together. Example: Publicity for girls’ sports should be equitable — the school’s yearbook, announcements, bulletins, and banners should equally advertise girls’ teams.
- No Retaliation/Backlash for Complaints: Title IX prohibits retaliation against, for example, coaches, students, parents/guardians who raise concerns or complaints of gender inequity. Institutions should welcome community members pointing out inequity in order to fix it!
GL: What more needs to be done to make sports more equitable for girls and women?
KT: While gender equity in school- and college-based sports has improved, girls and women, and a range of students, still face barriers to play and equity. Girls and women lack opportunities in athletics programming and face inequity in treatment and benefits. Unfairness is especially acute in communities of color and low-income areas.
There are so many simple steps we can take to improve things together. For example, because girls still struggle to find teams and only around 25% of youth coaches are women, supporting the creation of girls’ sports opportunities and encouraging women to coach can make a direct impact!
GL: What should we do if we see gender inequity in an athletic program?
KT: If you see gender-based inequity in a school or college/university program, make a note of it, consider writing down the issue so you can share about it, and raise it to your:
- Teacher, principal, athletic director, superintendent, or other school official
- Local state department of education
- State athletic association
- U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights
- Local attorney or advocate, as needed
School staff, coaches, students, athletes, community members, families, and staff are all empowered to raise issues and ensure fairness in athletics programs. Our Positive Coaching Alliance Gender Equity Initiative has a wide range of resources — including this brand new Game Plan Guide and a literature review of best practices for helping girls get into the game, women coach, and all people to instill greater gender equity in youth sports spaces, and beyond.
*The National Women’s Hockey League is now known as the Premier Hockey Federation.
For More Resources
- National Women’s Law Center: Check It Out Guide
- Women’s Sports Foundation: Play Fair Guide
Note: this overview does not contain legal advice; Title IX technical assistance can be sought.
For more information to keep your girl or youth active in sports, check out our Tips to Stay in The Game.