Monday, April 23, 2012

Gender Equality in the Olympic Games

Over the last two centuries, the Olympics have shown the progress of the movement for women's equality. The modern Olympics started in the early 1800s, however women weren't even allowed to compete until the 1900 summer Olympics, and then only 11 women competed in lawn tennis and golf. Since then female competitors have increased from a mere 1.5 percent in 1900 to 42 percent in Beijing 2008. However even in 2008 three countries, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and Qatar, didn't send a single female athlete to the Olympics. And, as pointed out by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, there were only 124 events that women could compete in compared to the 165 for men.

Over the last four years, many efforts have been made to increase gender equality among athletes, and among the members of the International Olympic Committee. According to the Sport Digest, "The addition of women’s boxing to the 2012 Olympic Games in London marks the first time in history that women will compete in every sport that men do."So far, the Olympics has come very close to gender equality among athletes, yet leadership roles still lag behind with only 15 female members of the 135 members of the IOC. Similarly, the United States Olympic Committee only has 21 female members on the 58 member Executive Committee and 3 women on the 11 member Board of Directors. In February a three day conference was held to discuss changes in the leadership of the IOC. The Los Angeles Declaration was unanimously passed that would focus on:
The need to bring more women into management and leadership roles 
- The need to increase collaboration and partnerships, especially with UN organisations, to promote gender equality.
It's a little disconcerting that the leadership roles are the ones that have yet to accomplish, or even come close to gender equality, but it's in a direct correlation with the statistics of female leaders around the world. I'm just glad to see that it's been brought to light and that measures are being taken to improve gender equality in all aspects of the Olympic Games.

I feel that the Olympics have showcased, and even improved the efforts for gender equality. Young women are given role models of all ages, shapes, sizes, and race to look up to and aspire to be like. There are thousands of female athletes that show dedication, passion, and determination, and improve the outlook for the role of women around the world. They are the true heroes out there, inspiring women everywhere. It's been speculated that while the Olympics have helped improve gender equality, it won't be enough. At least for me, it's nice to see progress, and it certainly doesn't hinder the efforts. Hopefully with the work done within the IOC, society can take a look at women in leadership roles within other fields. I'm looking forward to the day when there is total equality within the games, and hey, maybe the male athletes will be that 42 percent!


  1. Just a fun fact that I learned from reading Born To Run (which totally changed my life, by the way. Check out this link if you care: or call me for a shorter, simpler version of McDougal's ideas at (910) 512-4230): Women were not allowed to run marathons until very recently (the 1970's) because medical professionals (PROFESSIONALS!) firmly (FIRMLY!) believed that running such long distances would cause the female uterus to literally become unattached and fall out of the vagina.

    This is obviously a ridiculous idea.

    Women may be generally slower than men at running marathons, but they tend to match or even beat the times of men when it comes to races greater than 50 miles in distance.

    This really cool fact, in conjunction with the evolutionary theory that this book presents, supports the idea that women are physically as strong and capable as men. Personally, I think this is freakin' awesome.

    Plus... childbirth! THAT's pretty impressive. Kudos, women!

  2. I think sports has worked very hard to promote inclusion of women into the sports arena. Personally, I don't think that for women to be equal members of society that everything has to be the same for men and women. But I do think it is a great improvement that women have the opportunity to take part in the same activities as men.

    As for the women in leadership positions, I have mixed feelings. Obviously, I think women can be very competent leaders, and should not be Not allowed to have that position simply because of their gender. However, I don't think that they Should get the position for the gender as well. I believe in meritocracy, where they most qualified individual should get the position not just because they are a man or women.
    Just something to think about.

  3. The Olympics are a very interesting topic to discuss in conjunction with gender equality. This discussion could easily play into the whole, "boys are simply better at sports". I do not agree with that at all, but we still see with all sporting events, not just the Olympics, the male sports gain much more popularity than the women sports do. However, one thing to point out is that women are becoming dominant within the Olympics and are becoming known for being both a strong individual women and an athletic contender, for example Amanda Beard who is not only a mother but an Olympic Gold medalist in swimming, she often advocates the importance of being a mother and how this has simply shaped her to be a better athlete.

  4. I think that it is very interesting that the Summer 2012 Olympics will be the first olympic games in which women compete in every sport that men do. It is very disconcerting that it took so many years for this to be achieved. Sure, boxing is not a particularly feminine sport (or so society says), but there is a significant amount of female boxers who should absolutely be considered and treated equal to their male counterparts. Take Laila Ali, for example. She is a notable female boxer. It is really confusing that the olympic games did not include female boxing before 2012 when there are serious female boxers training consistently. It reveals yet another instance in which women are not completely equal to men in society today. I'm glad that at least in summer 2012 there'll be a change.

  5. Maggie brings up an interesting point: I feel that we are so focused on "gender equality for all things possible, no matter what!" that we don't consider the fact that sometimes men get elected to these positions simply because they are the better candidate. I would have to do some research to be sure, but no person should get/not get a position simply because they are a certain gender. However, the problem with all of this is that electing people to certain positions is ultimately a subjective process. We can not write down all the pros and cons of all the candidates and determine for sure who is the best one to pick. What is someone has less pros than another person but what if some of those pros could/should be "weighed" heavier on the scale of importance? Do you see where I am going with this? It is just tough to call out someone for being sexist for sure.


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