Title IX at 40: Still Tackling Occupational Segregation of the Sexes

Forty years after the 1972 passage of Title IX, women have enjoyed a steady but slow rate of increased participation in high-growth jobs such as those in technology and trades that are nontraditional for females. Nontraditional occupations are defined by law as those where less than 25% of the workforce is one gender. Unfortunately for the many women in clerical, service, and care-giving jobs, these nontraditional occupations offer higher salaries, benefits, and advancement opportunities. For example, on average, a woman can earn $63,000 a year as a mapping technician compared to $32,000 as an administrative assistant.


Gender equity in the workplace must come from gender equity in education and training, specifically in offering more Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to women. An analysis by the National Coalition for Women & Girls in Education (NCWGE) CTE Task Force found that female enrollment in educational programs leading to nontraditional occupations has gone from virtually 0% in 1972 to over 25% in 2010. At this rate, we should expect workplace equality in 2052, after about another forty years. However, several states reached around 40% female enrollment, showing the effectiveness of gender-conscious supportive policies and programs.

In the report commemorating the 40th anniversary of the civil rights law requiring sex equity in the use of federal education funding (“Title IX: Working to Ensure Gender Equity in Education”), WOW’s policy director, Susan Rees, contributed to the chapter on CTE (see pgs 27-36), which found that:

  1. Ending sex segregation in CTE offers the promise of expanding careers for women and men. Allowing both sexes access to training in nontraditional fields will shrink the gender wage gap.
  2. Ensuring gender equity in CTE can expand women’s employment in high-growth fields. Allowing both sexes to compete in the workplace will allow us to fill millions of jobs with the best minds and boost US competitiveness in world markets.
  3. Barriers to girls and women entering CTE remain high. These barriers include gender stereotypes, implicit bias, unequal treatment, sexual harassment, and other barriers experienced at the workplace and in school.
  4. We need better regulation and enforcement of Title IX for CTE. The law needs to offer both incentives and resources for ensuring gender equity, as well as sanctions for discrimination.
  5. We need better tracking and reporting of data as well as incentives for increasing girls’ and women’s participation in CTE. Performance indicators are needed to track and maintain recruitment and retention in order to ensure equal access.

As we celebrate 40 years of Title IX’s success and the many opportunities Title IX has provided for a generation of women, we must also stay vigilant. What can we do to enforce Title IX’s mission for the next generation of women and men?

Amy Sun
WOW Federal Policy Intern
Teach For America (Hawai’i Corps 2007)


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