When women first took part in the Olympic Games – in Paris in 1900 – just 22 women competed out of a total of 997 athletes (2.2 per cent)! Female participation has increased steadily since then.
The 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games set a new record with a 49 per cent female athletes’ participation level; a giant step that shows that gender parity is very close. The percentages of female Olympians at the London Games and Sochi Games – 44 per cent and over 40 per cent respectively – are also promising and the result of determined work over more than a century as the world moves to recognise the importance of providing sport to all.
In this regard, sport leaders have an important role to play in ensuring that female participation continues to grow in this manner.
Clear policies and targeted programmes are needed in order to ensure that females have access to sport at all levels in the same way as males do. But the Olympic Movement’s efforts are not solely focused on getting more women to compete in the Games. It also aims to boost the number of women in decision-making positions within sport.
To help achieve these goals, the IOC set an objective in 1996 that all sporting bodies belonging to the Olympic Movement must reserve at least 20 per cent of decision-making positions for women within their structures. Since then, a growing number of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations have shown their willingness to work towards gender parity within their organisations. Twelve women are currently presidents and 31 women hold the role of Secretary-General at NOCs across the world.
The IOC is leading by example when it comes to mobilising female representation in its own internal structure. Compared to just two female IOC Members in 1981, there are now 24. In addition, four women now sit on the 15-Member IOC Executive Board – the highest number in its history. More women are chairing IOC commissions, such as the Coordination Commissions for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, and the 2nd Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2016 in Lillehammer, as well as the Women and Sport Commission and Athletes’ Commission.
Going forward 2015 marks a very important milestone in the Olympic Movement’s calendar, as it will be the 20th year anniversary of the creation of the Women & Sport Commission. Many of its initiatives have helped in the successes that have been witnessed on the gender parity front. One such initiative is the recognition of individuals or organisations that have made remarkable contributions to the development,
encouragement and reinforcement of women’s participation in sport, in coaching or in the administrative and decision-making structures of sport.
Here, we highlight the 2014 winners of the IOC Women & Sport Trophies, who were announced at the IOC Session in Monaco earlier this December.
Ms Meriem Cherni Mizouni (Tunisia)
Winner for Africa:
Ms Aya Mahmoud Medany (Egypt)
Winner for the Americas:
Ms Nancy Hogshead-Makar (United States)
Winner for Asia:
Sheikha Naimah Al Sabah (Kuwait)
Winner for Europe:
Ms Anastasia Davydova (Russia)
Winner for Oceania:
Ms Sian Mulholland (Australia)
We congratulate all winners and would like to extend the invitation to the readers to reach out and use sport as a driving force for change in their own communities.
Read more about the winners here.