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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mink praised for role in Title IX

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Patsy T. Mink

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Gender equity advocates both nationally and in Hawai'i are remembering this Saturday's 35th anniversary of passage of the landmark Title IX of the Higher Education Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender in federally funded educational programs.

In Washington, the House of Representatives yesterday passed a resolution introduced by Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawai'i, celebrating the anniversary of the legislation that her predecessor, the late Hawai'i Rep. Patsy T. Mink, was instrumental in getting passed.

During a floor speech, Hirono said that only 9 percent of women earned law degrees when Title IX was passed. That number rose slightly to 15 percent when she herself went to law school in the mid-1970s, Hirono said.

"Today, women earn almost half of all law degrees," she said. Expectations have changed, Hirono said. "Girls expect to grow up and contribute to our country and the world in any way they want as doctors, lawyers, CEOs, school principals and consultants, just to name a few careers previously underrepresented by women," she said.

Like Hirono, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised Mink for her leadership in the fight to push through Title IX. When it was defeated by a single vote, Pelosi said, Mink's tenacity helped force another, this time successful, vote. "An uncommon occurrence made possible by a woman of uncommon strength," Pelosi said.

WIDESPREAD IMPACT

After Mink's death in 2002, Title IX was renamed the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Gender equity advocates here said that while there have been a number of accomplishments since Title IX's passage, strides still need to be made.

Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohano-hano, associate athletic director at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, said Title IX "has had the biggest impact upon athletics in the past 35 years than any other legislation, no doubt."

Today, there are 12 women's athletic programs at UH-Manoa compared with seven men's programs. But there are still about 240 male athletes compared with about 190 female athletes on campus, said Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano, who was among the first beneficiaries of Title IX as a student athlete in the 1970s.

The UH-Manoa chancellor recently signed a new gender equity plan that will further "ensure compliance with Title IX and that there's increasing opportunities for women to participate and receive equal treatment and benefits," she said.

CLASSROOM BENEFITS

Jill Nunokawa, attorney and UH civil rights counselor, said many people forget that Mink and the other gender equity advocates of her day conceived Title IX not merely to get more girls and women onto athletic playing fields, but into college classrooms. "It was an educational amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act," Nunokawa said. "What they had in mind was education.

"We're now beginning to see a generation where there's much more parity," said Nunokawa, also a student athlete at Kaiser High School and the University of Hawai'i.

But locally, she said, both UH and the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association have dragged their feet on reaching parity. Often, she said, change has come only under threat of lawsuits.

Keith Amemiya, high school association executive director, said that seven girls sports have been added at the high school level in the past nine years and the number of girls' state championships has more than doubled, from nine to 21.

"And we'll continue our efforts to maximize the athletic opportunities for both our female as well as our male athletes," he said.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com.