By Kimberly Hoffmans
Equality for female athletes is synonymous with Title IX, a 1972 landmark federal law prohibiting discrimination by sex in educational institutions. After its passage, women’s participation in collegiate sports was boosted 10 times, according to a Woman’s Sports Foundation report in 2022. This civil rights law dispelled the myth of women’s capabilities in athletics and far beyond.
Perhaps one of the greatest outcomes of Title IX in the past 50 years has been its lesser-known role of empowering women in their academic and professional pursuits in higher education. Not only does Title IX protect athletes, but it also grants equal access and opportunities to students and employees of educational institutions receiving federal financial resources.
History of Title IX
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Women were included last minute in Title VII, which addresses equal employment.
However, women pursuing higher education continued to face discrimination through the early 1970s. Several U.S. universities and colleges banned women, spurring the movement for equal rights in education.
Women were finally granted equal rights in public education when President Richard M. Nixon signed Title IX. The educational amendment states that any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance cannot exclude, deny or discriminate against anyone in the U.S. based on their sex.
Rise of women in leadership
This decision propelled women’s rights in education, providing access and protections not previously available. Today, over 56% of America’s college students are female, and there are more women in higher education leadership (but there’s still not parity).
The profound effects of Title IX continue to impact leadership in the U.S. as more women than ever are breaking barriers and glass ceilings.
At the Ventura County Community College District and Ventura College, Oxnard College and Moorpark College, we have a strong showing of women leaders to keep the ratio balanced and to provide a stronger representation for women. Our elected five-member board of trustees includes two prominent women leaders who provide thoughtful governance: Chair Dianne B. McKay and Trustee Gabriela Torres.
“Over the past 50 years, Title IX has had a profound impact on educational opportunities for women, empowering them to pursue higher education in greater numbers and entering increasingly varied career paths. At Ventura County community colleges, nearly 60% of our students are female. We are proud that these students can confidently apply their degrees to any path of interest to them, from animal science to welding,” says McKay.
In addition to serving as a trustee since 2010, she is on many other community boards and is president and owner of Mustang Marketing, a full-service creative and public relations agency established in 1986.
“I am grateful for the educational and leadership opportunities I’ve had due to the unwavering commitment to social justice of women before me who worked tirelessly to advance this fundamental principle that ignites the human spirit and leads to systemic changes,” says Torres, who is passionate about social justice issues. She is also a revered educator and administrator in the Oxnard School District.
“My hope is to continue this important work and inspire our female students to become leaders in our community by being of service to others,” Torres adds.
I’m proud to report that our executive team at Ventura College also has a strong showing, with two female vice presidents and myself at the helm. I’m so grateful for my role as leader of this team.
Reflecting on Title IX, I can’t imagine my life without the opportunity to pursue my education. I am eternally grateful I was able to attend college, become a registered nurse, a college administrator, and eventually a college president.
While the number of women in higher education leadership has increased in the 50 years of Title IX, it hasn’t shifted far enough: Only one-third of college presidents are women, and they generally earn less than their male counterparts, according to College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.
There is still much progress to be made. However, I am honored and proud to be among the women leaders in our community driving change by eliminating barriers and inspiring and mentoring future leaders.
Please join me and our community colleges’ female students and employees in this effort. Our goal is for all young girls to be confident that no matter what their educational and career ambitions are, they are attainable.
Kimberly Hoffmans, R.N., Ed.D., is president of Ventura College.