This month is National Women’s History Month and the focus this year is on women’s education and empowerment. Today, women have taken a dominant role in the ranks of higher education, comprising more than half the students enrolled in institutions of higher learning. Maryland women are faring even better: 58.8 percent of Marylanders enrolled in higher education are women and 54.6 percent of all higher education degrees in the state – which include associate, bachelor, master and doctoral degrees — are awarded to women.
I want to recognize a Maryland woman who I believe has been a real hero in the battle to bring gender equality to education. Dr. Bernice R. Sandler is known as the “Godmother of Title IX” for her work in creating and implementing the law that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.
Dr. Sandler’s activism in this area started in the late 1960s when she was denied a faculty position at the University of Maryland because her opinions and activism were deemed “too strong for a woman.” Dr. Sandler did not give up; instead, she worked with the Women’s Equity Action League and members of Congress to lead hearings that documented acts of discrimination against women in employment and education.
These hearings led to the passage of Title IX in 1972, a landmark piece of legislation banning sex discrimination in schools. Dr. Sandler is included in the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in recognition of all she has achieved.
Title IX in its original form was intended to end discriminatory hiring and employment practices in federally financed institutions. The implementation of Title IX regulated educational activities, including athletic programs, and has been instrumental in opening up opportunities for women and girls in traditionally male-dominated programs.
Education is the stepping stone to success in our nation. Dr. Sandler understood that and courageously fought for equality and fairness in institutions of higher learning. We owe much to Dr. Sandler and to those who fought for Title IX, and we must always remember that America’s potential can only be realized when all of its citizens, regardless of gender, have equal access to educational opportunities.