Gender Equality in Policy

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The political history of women, relative to the history of politics, is not very long. Even shorter is the notion of gender equity as policy. There have been successes and failures in legislative attempts on many fronts regarding this concern. Quite often it has been a confluence of social and historical changes that have prompted changes in laws and their interpretation rather than any inherent American concern for equality. The impact of legislative efforts has also been markedly different in terms of impact relative to intent. A curious result of all of this is that while women have progressed greatly in terms of educational opportunities, there have been far more limited gains in the workplace. This paper will show how policy has enhanced the educational and extracurricular opportunities of women and conversely has failed in the improvement of vocational equality.

The most important piece of legislation safeguarding educational equity regarding gender is Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972. The impact of this amendment ranges through all levels of education, as it is applicable to any educational institution that receives federal assistance. In 1971, before Title IX, men who completed high school also graduated college at a rate that was eight percent greater than women; as of June 1994, women actually became the majority of this group (Title IX). Likewise, women also represented far more substantial percentages of those receiving graduate and professional degrees (Title IX). While these increases in equal gender participation cannot be attributed to Title IX exclusively, the evidence suggests that it has had a strong positive influence.

Title IX's most pervasive influence has been on creating a far greater sense of gender equity concerning extracurricular activity, most notably athletics, on a primary and secondary level, but of course most famously on the collegiate level. Women's participation has increased fourfold in the 33 years since the...
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