She's best known for making Olympic history in swimming back in 1984. Today Nancy Hogshead-Makar is a lawyer, writer and advocate for women in sports. She thanks a piece of landmark legislation for where she is.
"Without that law, Title IX, the education amendment of 1972…I would not have swum in the Olympics and I certainly would not have gotten a college scholarship," Hogshead-Makar says.
Title IX celebrates 40 years this year and guarantees equal educational and athletic opportunities for females in the United States. It's what gave many young, female athletes the chance to be involved in sports.
"I think it's extremely important. I mean we work just as hard as the guys do," says college athlete Leah Hickson.
"With this you get to interact with so many different people from all over the world. And it's just a great opportunity," says Christine Mitchell, also a college athlete.
The number of girls competing in college sports has gone from 32,000 in 1971, just before Title IX was implemented, to 150,000 this year. Scholarships went from non-existent to nearly a third of all scholarship dollars going to women. Still, Hogshead-Makar says a gender gap exists.
"How women are seen in society is reflected in athletics, it's reflected in equal pay, it's health care, and all different areas, it's all connected, " she says.
Women only earn 77 cents for every dollar a male counterpart earns. And there are 1.3 million fewer girls playing high school sports.
"So we've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go," says Hogshead-Makar.
A recent study found girls that participated in sports have a greater chance of employment later in life and receive salaries 14 to 19-percent higher than those who do not participate. Just one more way Title IX has helped women.
Title IX is a law passed in 1972 that requires gender equality for boys and girls when it comes to educational programs that receive federal funding. Most people associate Title IX with sports, but it also covers the following areas: access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing and technology. (Source: titleIX.info)
How sports participation can benefit women:
- Girls who participate in sports have a 7 percent lower risk of obesity 20 to 25 years later, when women are in their late 30s and early 40s.
- High school girls who play sports are less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy, more likely to get better grades in school, and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.
- Girls who play sports have higher self-esteem, higher self-confidence, and lower levels of depression.
- As little as four hours of exercise a week can reduce a teenage girl's risk of breast cancer by up to 60%.
- Forty percent of women over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis, but performing weight-bearing exercises that are necessary to establishing bone mass can begin prevention at an early age.
- Sports teaches women about teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviors—critical skills necessary for success in the workplace. 80% of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former "tomboys"—having played sports. (Source: Women's Sports Foundation, New York Times)