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As 50th anniversary of Title IX arrives, the Michigan Task Force on Women in Sports releases its final report – By Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

Report calls for action from all sectors to address inequity and support all women and girls

By Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

The Michigan Task Force on Women in Sports marked the 50th anniversary of Title IX this week by releasing its final report today. In it, the Task Force documented inequities for women and girls in Michigan athletics and outlined ways that all sectors could support women and girls in sports and throughout society.

The Task Force is chaired by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who was joined by numerous task force members, advisors and supporters to share their findings and recommendations at the Detroit PAL’s Corner Ballpark. The Task Force commissioned research, analyzed results, and determined recommendations over the past three years after it was created by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order 2019-16.

“By bolstering athletics for women and girls, we support their dreams and development, create new and expanded economic opportunities, and make Michigan stronger by recognizing and building leaders who serve in all sectors,” said Benson. “Everyone wins when we overcome systemic inequity and support girls’ and women’s sports, and I encourage all Michigan leaders to embrace the recommendations of the task force to strengthen our great state.”

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Among the Task Force’s findings were that increasing opportunities for girls and women in sport has far-reaching benefits in athletics and other sectors. Yet, even 50 years after Title IX became federal law, girls and women continue to receive fewer opportunities in sports. They encounter lower levels of investment, training resources, and safety assurances than their male counterparts – disparities that are further stratified by income and race – and when women succeed as professional athletes or work in university or professional sports, they often meet a glass ceiling and a substantial pay gap.  

“The 50th anniversary of Title IX is the perfect time to reflect on what’s been accomplished and what work remains to be done for achieving gender equity,” said Keri Becker, Athletic Director at Grand Valley State University. “It is my hope that Grand Valley State University can serve as a model for others as we have worked to intentionally elevate women’s sports, build inclusivity, and increase equity through several initiatives.”

“Investing in girls’ sports has many proven benefits, but we know that all girls don’t have equal access around the state. Girls in the Detroit area are often further disadvantaged resulting in less participation,” said Ramona Cox, Champions Network Director at Doc Wayne. “Because we know that women’s leadership creates better communities, it is important that we provide targeted support to those girls and in places that are in the greatest need.”

“The relationship between girls’ sports participation and business success, whether as an entrepreneur or in the C-suite, is clear. Pay equity increases, employees are more satisfied and companies perform better when women are part of leadership teams. The skills gained from playing sports, such as teamwork, resilience, problem solving and competitiveness, give these women a unique advantage in the business world,” said Carolyn Cassin, President and CEO of Michigan Women Forward. “Michigan Women Forward is proud to help continue the work of the Task Force to support the implementation of the solutions to increase gender equity.”

“We work with thousands of coaches, officials, and administrators across the state that impact the experiences of girl athletes, and we want those experiences to be high quality, rewarding, and equitable,” said Mark Uyl, Executive Director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. “Additionally, because we know the connection between sports and leadership for girls, we invest in various opportunities for athletes to develop as leaders such as our Women in Sports Leadership conference serving 500 girls and women.”

The Task Force identified numerous ways that various sectors can support women and girls in sports, including the following:

  1. Modernize and expand upon Federal Title IX laws with increased protections, compliance, and accountability by:
    • Creating Governor’s Awards to recognize educational institutions excelling in Title IX compliance and transparency
    • Creating a required certification process that provides a proactive lens for both preventing and addressing Title IX concerns and mandating Title IX review committees, spot checks and regular audits
    • Working with partners, such as the Michigan High School Athletic Association and other governing bodies, to increase Title IX training for school administrators, coaches and athletes
  2. Invest in girls’ athletics as a pathway to leadership in sports and other industries by:
    • Educating important stakeholders on gender bias and systemic barriers in sport, as well as actionable solutions
    • Earmark state funding or use pass through grants for local government recreation centers to support initiatives and actions toward gender equity and girl-specific sport-related programming
    • Identifying, connecting to and consulting with search firms that specialize in identifying women leaders and executives for sports organizations
    • Provide scholarships supported by leaders and organizations to incentivize and reward women with sports industry aspirations
  3. Market and finance future opportunities and access for girls and women at all levels of sports by:
    • Elevating the promotion and celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, held annually in February, throughout Michigan with coordinated events, activities and messages
    • Campaigning for more women to enter the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in all categories
    • Highlighting and expand opportunities for girls and young women to learn about careers in sports through local and regional career days, workshops, and other programs.

The final report can be viewed on the Task Force on Women in Sports website at Michigan.gov/SOSWIS.

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