Since the enactment in 1972 of federal laws barring sex discrimination in athletics, the number of women participating in sports has increased dramatically, according to a report by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
But women athletes are still victimized by sex discrimination in sports, the report said, and they lag behind their male counterparts at virtually all levels.
"Equality has not yet been achieved despite considerable progress," the commission said in its 87-page report, released last week.
In Title 9 of the Education Amendments of 1972, Congress prohibited sex discrimination in athletics at all institutions receiving federal aid, effectively including all interscholastic and intercollegiate sports under the provisions of the law.
In guidelines handed down three years later, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare interpreted the measure to extend into such areas as athletic scholarships, coaching, equipment and quality and availability of practice facilities.
In the 1972-73 scholastic year, soon after the enactment of Title 9, 700,000 girls were participating in interscholastic athletics, about 17.2 percent of all participants, the report noted. By 1978-79, 2 million girls were active in interscholastic athletics and the percentage had risen to 31.9.
There were 4.2 million boys involved in interscholastic athletics in 1978-79.
In a state-by-state breakdown, both the District of Columbia and Maryland were ahead of the national average in terms of female participants in interscholastic sports.
The District of Columbia, where 41.3 percent of the participants in interscholastics sports were girls, ranked fifth in the nation behind Iowa, Kansas, Vermont and Maine.
In Maryland, 34.2 percent of the participants in interscholastic athletics were girls. Virginia, with 25.7 percent, was below the national average.
Increased participation in and the availability of basketball and track and field programs for girls accounted for the bulk of the growth in the girls' sports.
In 1971, the report noted, basketball was available to girls in only 4,856 schools; for boys in 19,647. By 1978-79 the girls basketball program had expanded dramatically; 17,167 schools offered basketball for girls. By contrast, boys basketball had decreased slightly; it was available in 18,752 schools.
Only 2,992 schools offered track and field programs for girls in 1970-71; by 1978-79 the number had risen to 13,935.
Similarly, at the college level, the number of women participating in intercollegiate athletics more than doubled between 1971-72 and 1976-77, the report said, quoting five-year surveys by the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
There were 31,852 women in intercollegiate athletic programs in 1971-72; by 1976-77 the figure had risen to 64,375. There were 107,304 men participating in intercollegiate sports in 1976-77.
Tennis, where 48.3 percent of the intercollegiate participants were women and basketball, where 42.5 percent were women, were the most popular women's sports in intercollegiate competition.
Since 1973-74, the report said, women have begun to receive a larger allotment of the college athletic budgets, although men still retain the lion's share. In 1973-74, at all AIAW colleges the women's program received only 4.2 percent of the athletic budget. by 1978-79 the percentage had risen to 16.4.
At AIAW and NCAA Division I colleges -- the schools with major athletic programs -- the comparable figures for women's athletic programs were 2.1 percent of the athletic budget in 1973-74 and 14.3 percent in 1978-79.