Female Olympians are finally gaining ground, and in next summer’s Olympic games, we will see full gender representation across the 206 teams that are participating. There will be almost the same amount of women athletes as men – nearly 49 percent.
It’s been a very long road to parity. Women were not actually allowed to take part in the Olympic games until 1900, and their options were still very limited, only being allowed to compete in tennis, croquet, sailing, equestrian, and golf. Only 22 females competed in these games out of 997 people. Fast forward to 1991 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) passed a law stating that all new sports had to be gender-neutral. The number of female participants rose dramatically and the landscape started to change.
The number of women competing at the Games has increased significantly – from 34 percent of the total at Atlanta 1996 to an expected new record of 48.8 percent at Tokyo 2021, and a commitment to reach full gender equality for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. In October 2018, the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires were the first fully gender-balanced Olympic event ever.
Not only are there more female athletes in the Olympic games, but the IOC is made up of 46.6% women and they have also added more diversity in terms of regional representation and age. The IOC stated, “It has been more of a marathon than a sprint, but female Olympians are at last catching their male counterparts in the numbers game.” Aligning the growth of high-level female sports participation with leadership in an organization like the IOC is important, but there is still much room for improvement in the number of women on their boards and commissions.
In 2018, the IOC created the Gender Equality Review Project. The IOC partnered with its Women in Sports Commission to focus on achieving real results in order to strengthen gender equality through action-oriented recommendations. The main goal of this project was to remove all barriers that were preventing women from participating in the Olympic Games. They came up with 25 recommendations that would help to make changes in a timely fashion. This plan will be successful if female participation is at 50% during the next round of the Olympic games.
There is no better way to promote gender equality than on a world stage like the Olympics. To see these strong female athletes competing will empower the next generation of young girls. Great change has happened and the percentage increase has been impressive, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
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