If you ask someone in the United States about gender equality, they’re likely to say that the country has made a lot of progress in the 50 years since the landmark anti-discrimination law known as Title IX was passed. . But if you ask a woman, the answer will probably be very different.
According to a survey conducted by The Associated Press, the NORC Center for Public Affairs Studies and the National Museum of Women’s History, the majority of adults in the United States believe that progress toward gender equality has been made since 1972. This was the year that Congress passed Title IX, a one-sentence law that prohibits gender discrimination in education.
But there are great differences of opinion about how advanced and in what aspects of life.
However, there were some deep divisions between men and women: 61% of men say much progress has been made toward gender equality, compared to only 37% of women who agree, according to the survey.
Among women, 50% think that some progress has been made in this area and 13% think that little or no progress has been made.
“We’ve struggled a lot, we’ve won a little bit, but we haven’t really achieved equality,” said 68-year-old Brenda Theis, a retired ophthalmologist from Winnimont, Alabama. Progress that began in the 1970s has stalled, he said, with continuing pay gaps and fighting over women’s reproductive rights.
Title IX, passed after other major civil rights laws, sought to expand women’s protections in education. Today she is known for her influence in the world of sports and in the fight against sexual harassment and assault.
As the nation approaches its 50th anniversary of the legislation, most Americans have a positive opinion of the measure. 63% support it with a majority among both men and women. Only 5% said they did not support it and the rest said they were neutral or not sure.
However, among the US population, there are many differences of opinion about what progress has been made with the law.
Among Republicans, apart from men, the majority also say that much progress has been made, with 65% thinking so. Among Democrats, 39% feel the same way.
Among women, women age 50 and older tend to think that there has been a lot of progress in certain areas, such as leadership or employment and educational opportunities.
Milan Ramsey, 29, said it was “remarkable how far we’ve come considering how uneven it still is”.
He said sexism is difficult to avoid in today’s society, be it unequal access to health care or everyday crimes such as hissing. But he knows it has gotten worse. Once, looking at her mother’s childhood photos, she pointed to a pair of pants that she said was her first pair.
“He remembers it because he couldn’t wear pants to school until he was 7,” said Ramsey from Santa Monica, California.
Growing up as a child in the 1970s, Karen Dunlop said she immediately benefited from Title IX. She says women’s soccer leagues were starting earlier. His mother was quick to sign him up.
“But at the same time, it didn’t stay that way,” he said.
“The push for equality has been around long enough that it would have worked,” Dunlop said. “There must be some difference.”
According to the survey, Americans estimate that the impact of Title IX is felt more in some areas than in others. More than half say it has had a positive effect on women’s opportunities in sports, and a similar proportion say the same about educational opportunities in general.
However, only 36% believe the law has helped combat sexual harassment in schools and 31% believe it has had a positive effect in protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination.
At the same time, there are signs that not all the population fully understands the law. A third of those surveyed said they were not sure that Title IX affected them personally, and a quarter were also unsure about the law’s impact in other areas.
The Associated Press-NORC survey of 1,172 adults was conducted on May 12–16 using an AmeriSpeak sample, which was designed to represent the entire US population. It has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.0 percentage points.
The Associated Press’s coverage of education is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.