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Gender Issues: Women's Participation in the Sciences Has Increased, but Agencies Need to Do More to Ensure Compliance with Title IX

GAO-04-639 Published: Jul 22, 2004. Publicly Released: Jul 22, 2004.
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Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 extended protections against sex discrimination to students and employees at institutions receiving federal assistance for educational programs or activities. In the 32 years since Title IX was enacted, women have made significant gains in many fields, but much attention has focused on women's participation in the sciences. Because of the concern about women's access to opportunities in the sciences, which receive billions of dollars in federal assistance, this report addresses: (1) how do the Department of Education (Education), the Department of Energy (Energy), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) ensure that federal grant recipient institutions comply with Title IX in math, engineering, and science; (2) what do data show about women's participation in these fields; and (3) what promising practices exist to promote their participation?


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Science Foundation To fully comply with Title IX regulations, the Secretary of Energy and Director of NSF should ensure that compliance reviews of grantees are periodically conducted.
Closed – Implemented
NSF is now in compliance with Title IX regulations after it conducted a compliance review in December 2005. Additionally, NSF is continuing to work with other federal agencies with the hope of coordinating a government-wide approach to Title IX reviews.
Department of Energy To fully comply with Title IX regulations, the Secretary of Energy and Director of NSF should ensure that compliance reviews of grantees are periodically conducted.
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Energy has established procedures for conducting compliance reviews under Title IX. Specifically, the department has established selection criteria, developed procedures for compliance reviews, and established a Title IX compliance review team. Staff have been trained, selection criteria have been applied, and in December 2005, Energy conducted its first compliance review under these new procedures.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration To fully comply with Title IX regulations, the Administrator of NASA should continue to implement its compliance review program to ensure that compliance reviews of grantees are periodically conducted.
Closed – Implemented
NASA has taken several actions to ensure periodic compliance reviews of grantees. The agency reviewed and identified four grant recipient institutions (University of California at Los Angeles, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Maryland at College Park, and University of Michigan at Ann Arbor) using a specific set of objective, neutral criteria consistent with Department of Justice guidelines and relevant case law for on-site Title IX reviews in FY 2006 and FY 2007. In November 2005, the agency notified the grant recipients that NASA would be conducting a Title IX review on their undergraduate Aerospace Engineering and Physics programs, including a review of best practices, and requested information on women's participation in these programs. Based in part on input and feedback received from senior managers at an April 2005 Title IX Technical Briefing, NASA developed a model plan for conducting Title IX on-site reviews, focusing on women's participation in NASA-assisted physics and engineering programs. In addition, NASA completed a two-year Title IX desk-audit review of about 200 NASA grant recipients (begun in December 2003) to gather information on recipients' compliance with Title IX regulatory requirements. The information will be used to create a database on recipients that includes, among other things, compliance status, best practices, problem areas for technical assistance, and potential as a candidate for on-site review. Of 183 institutions reviewed, 45% were found in full compliance with NASA Title IX requirements, 20% require more information to determine compliance, 30% were non-responsive, and 5% were non-jurisdictional for Title IX. Other agency actions include participating in an Interagency Task Force on Title IX compliance efforts among math and science agencies in July 2004 and developing and disseminating informational materials in 2005 to 200 select recipient institutions, designed to notify program beneficiaries of their rights and responsibilities on grant-related EO laws, such as Title IX.

Full Report

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Data collectionEducationEmployment discriminationEngineeringLife sciencesMathematicsReporting requirementsSex discriminationWomenWomen's rightsFederal grantsGrant monitoringGrant administration