How Can UMass Get More Women to Participate in Sports?

As Title IX approaches 45, the system reexamines a persistent gap.

Even as the landmark Title IX legislation approaches 45 next year, the gender participation gap in collegiate sports is a persistent issue for many schools, even if nationwide, colleges and universities often enroll more women than men.

At UMass Lowell, for example, the historically male-dominated school’s undergraduate enrollment was just 37-percent female, while women comprised 44 percent of River Hawk athletes. But 40 minutes south at UMass Boston, where women make up 54 percent of undergraduates, female sports participation was 40 percent in 2015, according to a report obtained by the State House News Service.

Athletic directors from across the system briefed the University Board of Trustees’ Committee on Academic and Student Affairs on Wednesday to take closer look at the gender participation gap in UMass sports programs and offer recommendations.

Enacted in 1972, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination at any public or private school that receives federal funding, and mandates equal equipment, facilities, travel, scheduling, and practice time for male and female student athletes.

At UMass Dartmouth, where women comprise 46 percent of undergraduate enrollment and 43 percent of the school’s 562 Division III athletes, wide-ranging theories have placed the blame for the gender participation gap on everything from the school’s architecture to its emphasis on business programs.

“People say that it’s campus aesthetics or majors, location. I’m not really sure what it’s attributed to,” Amanda Van Voorhis, the school’s AD, told SHNS. “I can’t really put my finger on it.”