Will the increased number of women at the Olympic Games influence the global equality?

But it shouldn’t be only about the female athletes. Only 17% of decision making positions in the Olympic sport bodies are held by women.

Questions:

1. It is for the first time in Olympic history when basically every competing nation is sending women as well as men. Do you find it somehow symbolic in the global context or not, and why?

2. Would you say that the increasing participation of women, e. g. American women had outnumber men on the U.S. Olympic team, and the fact that the whole world is watching and can witness what are women capable of, can positively influence global path to equity?

Answers:

Cheryl Cooky, Assistant Professor, Department of Health & Kinesiology and Women’s Studies Program, Purdue University

1. The presence of women from all competing countries at the 2012 Games represents the strides towards equality for women both in sport and also within their home countries.

While there have been tremendous improvements, there is still more work that needs to be done on the path to achieve equity. For example, only 17% of decision making positions in the Olympic sport bodies are held by women, and women represent only 3% of Presidents of national Olympic governing bodies.

And even at the 2012 Games, female athletes do not receive the same treatment. For example, the Japanese women soccer team flew to London in economy class while the men flew in business class- even though the women had won the World Cup. And in many countries, women’s sports do not receive the same media attention as the men’s sports, women do not have comparable training facilities and equipment, and women athletes are paid less than men.

2. The increased presence of women participating in the Olympics and the fact that there are more U.S. female athletes than U. S. male athletes competing in the 2012 games is evidence of what women can achieve when given the opportunity.

Historically, sport in many countries was thought to be an activity only for men. The belief that women are weaker supports the treatment of women as second class citizens both in sport and in society. When women participate in sports, and when we see women excelling at sports, it shows what women are capable of. Female athletes show that women too can be strong, competitive, determined, powerful and resilient. And this is important for achieving global gender equity because it changes how we see women and what we believe they can do.

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