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Reasonable Expectations: Understanding The Limited Power Of Title Ix To Transform Stem Educational Programs

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Women Faculty Issues and NSF's ADVANCE program

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1066.1 - 11.1066.23



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Paper Authors


Catherine Pieronek University of Notre Dame

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Catherine Pieronek, J.D., is Assistant Director of Academic Programs and Director of the Women’s Engineering Program at the University of Notre Dame College of Engineering. She has worked as a senior systems engineer on NASA spacecraft projects at TRW Space & Defense Sector, and as Director of External Relations for the Notre Dame Law School. She serves as a faculty advisor and editorial referee for the Journal of College of University Law, a student-edited legal journal published by the Notre Dame Law School and the National Association of College and University Attorneys, and has special expertise in matters involving Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. She earned her B.S.A.E. from the University of Notre Dame, her M.S.A.E. from UCLA, and her J.D. from the Notre Dame Law School.

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Reasonable Expectations: Understanding the Limited Power of Title IX to Transform STEM Educational Programs


In 1972, Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. §§ 1681- 1688) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender in educational programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Over the past three decades, educational institutions have seen incredible growth in the number, and relative percentage, of women in most areas of higher education, from academic programs in demanding fields such as medicine and law to extracurricular activities such as athletics. At the same time, the number, and relative percentage, of women in engineering and certain science disciplines has also grown tremendously when compared with pre-1972 numbers. Unfortunately, however, the representation of female students and faculty in these fields still is nowhere near 50 percent and, in fact, appears once again to be decreasing.

The active enforcement of Title IX has shown tremendous power in shifting the balance of participation in intercollegiate athletics from 15 percent women in 1972 to more than 40 percent today. This has inspired some to look to Title IX to similarly transform science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educational programs and activities to achieve similar gains. But Title IX in the athletic context differs markedly from Title IX in the academic context, and similar tactics likely cannot produce similar results.

This paper looks at Title IX in the academic context, differentiates it from Title IX in the athletic context and explores how successes in one area do not necessarily portend similar successes in the other. It also examines issues raised in a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which discusses some challenges regarding Title IX compliance monitoring and enforcement from the perspective of the federal government. The paper explores ways in which educational institutions can engage in their own compliance-monitoring efforts to effect change and, where relevant, includes examples of Title IX enforcement efforts through relevant federal-court cases. The paper concludes with advice for educational institutions seeking to use Title IX to improve educational programs and activities with an eye toward making them more hospitable to female students and faculty.


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 19721 states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . . .”1 As legislation enacted pursuant to congressional authority granted by the Spending Clause of the United States Constitution,2 the statute forms a contract between the federal government and the federal funding recipient. The terms of that contract condition the grant of federal funds on the funding recipient’s promise not to discriminate on the basis of gender. Thus, unlike other anti-discrimination laws such as the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans

Pieronek, C. (2006, June), Reasonable Expectations: Understanding The Limited Power Of Title Ix To Transform Stem Educational Programs Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--570

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