Clare Fitzpatrick ’09 is one Canterbury graduate who can truly appreciate what Title IX has done for female athletes in the 50 years since it was put into law in 1972. Clare returned to the hilltop recently to break down the landmark legislation for students in the presentation “Title IX: What is It and How Does It Work?”, hosted by Women of Canterbury as part of the School’s Social Justice Series.
She was certainly speaking from experience—Clare set the scoring record for Canterbury Girls' Varsity Basketball and led the team to a Class C title prior to a very successful career playing at Division I Cornell University. She was ultimately inducted into the Canterbury Athletics Hall of Fame. Currently the Assistant Women's Basketball Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at College of the Holy Cross, Clare has seen the effects of Title IX on all levels of play and from many lenses.
“Title IX has really changed the landscape of athletics and education systems,” she said. “Sitting in your shoes and even when I was an athlete at Cornell, I had no idea what Title IX was. I don’t think it was until I became a coach that I realized what it was and how much it affected women athletes, especially at the collegiate level.”
Clare spoke of the importance of knowing that every college has a Title IX Office and Coordinator available as a vital resource. “The biggest thing is that people—women especially—are afraid to say it out loud when something has happened to them. You should not be afraid; there is nothing to be embarrassed about,” she urged. “Your Title IX Office is there to support you, to give you the resources, and to investigate.”
She then shared some statistics that strongly support the notion that Title IX has been a major boon for female athletes. At high schools in 1972, nearly 290,000 girls and 3.6 million boys were participating. That has grown to 3.4 million girls and 4.5 million boys participating in high school sports today. And in ’72, only 30,00 women were participating in college sports; that number now stands at more than 215,000. “Wow! In 50 years, just look at that number of female athletes participating in sports,” she exclaimed. “You see how much it has grown!”
Touching upon what Title IX has done specifically for college athletics, Clare explained that things are now equal to a certain extent. “It doesn’t have to be exactly the same, but it has to be fair. It requires that you have equal access and equal quality,” she said. “The locker rooms are all the same, your medical treatment is the same, you’re traveling in the same manner. The men’s team isn’t chartering flights while the women’s team is busing it. You are getting the same equipment and access to practice facilities.” And the law has had an even greater impact on scholarships, Clare explained. “Women’s scholarships have to be equal to men, and they must have the same number of slots,” she said.
But she cautioned that there is more work to be done. “There are still many colleges that do not offer equal scholarships for women and men, and there is no accountability from the NCAA, the government, or anywhere else,” Clare explained. “There also need to be more women in leadership positions, and we need better youth coaches to help young women realize their potential and keep them in sports.”
Clare had some parting advice for the students in attendance, especially the young female athletes. “You have a voice—use it,” she told them. “You don’t have to stick to the status quo. You live in an era with social media where your voice can make a change. It’s the most powerful thing you have. Keep pushing, keep asking questions, and eventually you’re going to move the needle.”
As a nod to her time at Canterbury, Clare also encouraged students to find strong female role models, citing many of her own when she was a student on the hilltop. “Let them be mentors to you,” she shared. “It was the greatest thing for me to have strong females in sports here who I wanted to be like, and they pushed me to be the best version of myself.”
She concluded: “I hope that you feel empowered to be the best versions of yourselves and move the needle. You have a big influence not only on your own life but on other people around you—use that power to your best advantage.”