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WSF releases analysis of female representation in PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Games

One year ago, the world’s top winter athletes gathered in South Korea for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Now, the Women’s Sports Foundation has published in-depth research on female representation in the Games in its report “Women in the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: An Analysis of Participation, Leadership and Media Coverage.”

The study, which analyzes the number of women competing in the Games, working in the Olympic Movement, and the coverage surrounding them, is the sixth report of its kind and follows the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games study. The findings of the report are especially timely given that Republican senator Cory Gardner introduced the “Strengthening of the U.S. Olympics Act” on Jan. 15, which, if passed, would see a Congressional committee evaluate and recommend policy and structural changes within the United States Olympic Committee. As part of National Girls & Women in Sports Day on Feb. 6, the Women’s Sports Foundation’s CEO Deborah Antoine, staff and champion athletes will be in Washington D.C. to lobby for safety and equity in athletics.

The WSF will be sharing some of the key findings from the report on Capitol Hill. Analyzing the Games from both a domestic and international standpoint, it found that the push toward gender equality in both the Olympics and Paralympics is moving slowly and has not yet been achieved. In 2018, women made up 41.4% of Olympians and just 23.6% of Paralympians. In the U.S. delegation, women made up 44.4% of of Olympians and only 27.5% of Paralympians.

Here are some of the report’s other key findings:

Women working in National Olympic Committees continue to be underrepresented

“There are currently 202 active National Olympic Committees. These are the groups that are recognized by the IOC to organize Olympic teams in their respective countries.

Although female representation increased, women constitute only 16.2% of the total listed NOC positions, well below the [International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s] 20% threshold. Moreover, of the 202 NOCs, 152 (77.2%) have all-male leadership teams, 43 (21.8%) have male/female leadership teams, and two (1.0%), Ireland and Zambia, have all-female leadership teams.”

This trend also applies to International Olympic Winter Federations, which fail to meet the IOC’s 20% threshold. Only two of the seven Winter International Federations achieve 20% female representation on their executive boards.

Paralympic coverage lags behind Olympic coverage.

Media accounts from the four major online websites (ESPN, NBCOlympics, New York Times, and USA Today) appear to be trending toward more equitable coverage of male and female Olympians; however, coverage of the Paralympic Games remains minimal.

Media coverage favored women during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Stories on female athletes exceeded that of male athletes, with 43% of articles dedicated to women, 40% to men, and 17% discussed both women and men.

During the 2018 Paralympic Games, the four websites published only 34 articles about Paralympians. Of those, 44% were about male athletes, 21% about female athletes, and 35% about both male and female athletes.

Men continue to dominate the American Olympic and Paralympic coaching space

“Quite simply, U.S. Olympic coaches are predominantly male. Of the 66 “main coaches” at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, eight (12.1%) were female, seven of whom coached figure skating or ice dancing. This is a slight increase from the 2014 Games when women held 8.5% of “main coach” positions.

“Men similarly dominated in U.S. Paralympic coaching at the PyeongChang Games. Of the six Paralympic winter sports, men served as the head coach for four.

“The lack of female coaches for U.S. sport mirrors the larger gender breakdown at most games. According to the IOC Gender Equality Report, women comprised 10% of accredited coaches at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, 11% at the 2012 Games in London, 9% at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, and 11% at the 2016 Games in Rio.”

While the IOC’s 2017 Gender Equality Report lays out recommendations for complete gender equality in terms of medal opportunities and athlete quotas by 2024, there is still a long way to go. By releasing our Olympic and Paralympic Games research, WSF is providing new and accurate information with an eye toward making the Olympic and Paralympic movement equitable for all.

To read the full report, please click here.