Remembering Title IX: Where we’ve been and where we’re going
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that changed the face of public education and sports in the United States.
Signed into action in 1972, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding.
This legislation began to open doors for women to reach higher levels of education, and to participate in sports in greater numbers than ever before. When Title IX was passed in 1972, only 300,000 girls took part in high school sports nationwide, compared to 3.6 million boys. By 2019, that number skyrocketed to over 3.4 million girls participating in high school sports across the country.
To commemorate this groundbreaking legislation, we interviewed this groundbreaking legislation, we interviewed three women runners across generations to share how their lives have been impacted by Title IX, and where they feel the sport of running can continue to grow for women.
Madeline Manning Mims, 74
Olympian, National and Olympic Hall of Famer, chaplain, speaker, singer
Madeline Manning Mims’ track record — pun intended — is impressive: she boasts two Olympic performances (1972, 1976); North American Athlete of the Year (1967); All-Time, All-Star Track and Field Team nomination; and is a USATF and Olympic Hall of Fame inductee.
As a high schooler, she set a national record in the 440-yard dash. While in college at Tennessee State University, she competed in the 800m at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics where she became the only American to win the gold medal in the event; a record she held until Athing Mu won the gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Over the course of her illustrious running career, Manning Mims saw first-hand the impact of Title IX on opportunities for herself and for future generations. Today, women make up 44% of all NCAA athletes.
“I’ve seen competition really open up for women in sports,” says Manning Mims.
In addition to increased opportunities for competition, Title IX has also ensured greater financial security for female athletes. As of 1970, female athletes made 60-65% of what their male counterparts did, not including the lack of available athletic scholarships from the NCAA. While opportunity to compete has increased, women athletes still face a sizable pay gap, making 77% of their male peers’ salary on average. At the time Manning Mims was attending Tennessee State University, she was only able to take financial aid in the form of work-study.
“We’d be travelling all over Europe, representing the US. Meanwhile, when we came back, we had bills to pay. When was the country going to help us? We needed to do something to change the system,” says Manning Mims.
As a member of the Womens Sports Foundation, Manning Mims played an integral role in the passing of Title IX.
“Everyone who was part of the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) committee had a say in pushing Title IX forward, and together we got it passed,” remembers Manning Mims.
Julie Culley, 40
Olympian, Brooks Sports Marketing Manager, mom
Before Julie Culley was the sports marketing manager at Brooks, she ran the 5000m in the 2012 London Olympics, and has acted as a head coach for the running programs at Loyola University Maryland and Georgetown University.
She came into her running career as a high schooler, after spending much of her childhood playing travel soccer, taking music lessons, and participating in her school musicals.
“Running has led to every door opening that I've had in my life,” says Culley. “My education was paid for through running, my first job as a head coach at Loyola happened through running...the run community is how I met my husband; my whole world is running.”
From the community of her cross country and track and field teams, to her coworkers and family members, strong woman role models were essential in Culley’s running career.
remembers Culley. “One of the cool things about my generation is that we are one of the first generations that never were held back in sport. I don’t remember ever being denied an opportunity.”
In her career as a coach, Culley has seen the impact of Title IX on collegiate women’s runners.
“I’ve seen changes in opportunity for sure, especially within our sport. There’s more opportunity for women now than there are for men, there are more scholarships available now for women than there are for men. To be a fully funded track and field program is 18 full rides for women and 12.6 for men,” notes Culley.
Grace Gonzales, 32
Angel City Elite founding member, Olympic Trials Qualifier (marathon), teacher
Grace Gonzales is a founding member of Angel City Elite, an elite running group of BIPOC women who have been taking the Los Angeles area by storm. For Gonzales, running is more than a sport, it’s a lifestyle, a connective thread that weaves her into the greater tapestry of her community.
“I...did a little running here and there, and then decided to get more serious. Then out of nowhere I qualified for the Olympic Trials!” laughs Gonzales,
Gonzales began running at a young age, following in the footsteps of her father who is a legacy runner of the LA Marathon. He has run the race since its inception in 1986.
“He would bring [my brothers and me] on prayer runs around the community, he showed us how running was a way to connect with ourselves and the community,” says Gonzales, who continues to connect to her indigenous heritage by participating in a prayer run that runs from Chickaloon, Alaska, to Teotihuacan, Mexico every three years. Recently, the run has been extended to reach indigenous communities down to Panama.
One of the tenets of Title IX is to ensure equitable funding of men’s and women’s sports in federally funded schools at all levels. However, equitable funding doesn’t always mean equal participation.
Gonzales experienced this firsthand, as the high school she attended had significantly smaller girls' track and field and cross-country teams, with only a boys coach.
Because of the lack of teammates who competed on her level, Gonzales was left to qualify for championship meets as an individual, missing the opportunities afforded to girls who could qualify for events as a team.
Gonzales’ transferred high schools during junior year, after her father found another school in her district with a stronger girls' team.
The decision to transfer would change Gonzales’ life trajectory, and it was made possible by the precedents set by Title IX. By finding a more appropriate team to compete with, Gonzales was able to explore a college career.
“I didn’t anticipate going to college and I didn’t realize my potential would open gates for college, and at one point I started getting approached [by recruiters] and I didn’t even think of myself as being capable of [running in college],” explains Gonzales.
Gonzales’ experience, though empowering, points to one of many areas in which equity in sport must continue to grow — further pointing to the importance of Title IX. Without access to equitable opportunity and funding, students in underserved school districts will suffer the consequences.
“It’s frustrating that young people have to take initiative and advocate for themselves when the system should be taking care of them,” says Gonzales. “What about kids who don’t have access to opportunities or the support they need to take opportunities when they show up?”
Gonzales kept these issues close to heart as she helped found Angel City Elite, which is integral in increasing representation of BIPOC and women runners and participates in local youth outreach to encourage young girls to be involved in sports.
“If you feel something from it, keep going. If you feel happy doing it, why let anyone take it from you,” says Gonzales. She acts on this advice through her work as a teacher, as a runner, and as a model of the power of the run.
Brooks champions and invests in girls and women’s sports by funding youth running program and sponsoring women athletes. We believe gender is an intrinsic part of identity, and that discrimination based on gender violates an individual’s human rights.
While Title IX has created opportunities for many women, we've still got ground to cover on the road to equality. By sharing stories and creating opportunities for education and engagement, we can help build a bright future for women within and outside of the run.