Fostering gender equality and strengthening women’s participation in, and through, sport is one of the key missions of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Over the years, we have observed that women’s participation in the world of Olympic sport has grown steadily thanks to the IOC’s constant action, in cooperation with International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs).
With the adoption of Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC’s strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement, in December 2014, the IOC reaffirmed its commitment to work with IFs and NOCs as well as various regional, national and international platforms, to increase the possibilities for girls and women in sport and to achieve the goal of female athletes representing 50 per cent of the athletes taking part in the Olympic Games.
The members of the IOC Women and Sport Commission are particularly active in raising awareness about gender equality in their respective domains of sports expertise throughout the year. Among other important advocacy initiatives are the IOC Women and Sport Awards, the Afro-Asian Women and Sport Forums and the IOC World Conferences on Women and Sport.
More about Women and Sport in Olympism in Action
IOC Women and Sport Awards
The IOC Women and Sport Awards were first introduced in 2000. Every year, six trophies (one per continent, and one at world level) are awarded to a woman or man (former athlete, coach, administrator or journalist) or to an organisation that has worked to develop, encourage and strengthen the participation of women and girls in physical and sports activities, in coaching or in administrative and decision-making structures, and promote female journalists and women's sport in the media.
The IOC invites each National Olympic Committee (NOC), International Federation (IF) or Continental Association to propose one candidate for the IOC Women and Sports Award. Nominations are then studied by an IOC jury composed of members of the Women and Sport Commission.
Read about the winners of the 2014 Women and Sport Awards
Afro-Asian Women and Sport Forum
Jointly organised by the IOC, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), the first Afro-Asian Women and Sport Forum took place in Kuwait in 2013. Gathering together over three days, more than 130 women leaders and athletes from the two continents, as well as delegates the United Nations agencies, Continental and National Federations, discussed gender-equality barriers faced in their respective countries and shared their experiences to strengthen women’s networks in Africa and Asia. The Forum concluded with a clear promise and active commitment to further the development of women’s role in the world of sport in the two continents through the inclusion of women representatives in all committees, monitoring and communicating women’s participation in the world of sport at all levels, and the organisation of the Afro-Asian Women and Sport Forum every two years.
Read the full action plan here
IOC World Conferences on Women and Sport
Since 1996, the IOC's advocacy action has been supported by the organisation of quadrennial World Conferences on Women and Sport. The purpose of these Conferences has been to assess the progress made in this area within the Olympic Movement and to define future priority actions to improve and increase the involvement of girls and women in this framework. The last edition was held in Los Angeles, USA, from 16 to 18 February 2012 under the theme “Together Stronger: The Future of Sport”, and attracted more than 700 participants from 121 countries. The theme reflected the need for women and men to work together to break down barriers and overcome obstacles to further progress. Gender equality in sport will only be achieved through collaboration and partnerships across all relevant stakeholders.
The participants agreed upon the “L.A. Declaration” which will guide the work of the IOC and the Olympic Movement in this important field throughout the next four years until the next World Conference in 2016.
Read the final report from Los Angeles 2012
Read the L.A. Declaration
View the L.A. Conference Videos
Read the progress report – From the Dead Sea to Los Angeles
Promoting women leaders in the Olympic Movement – 2010 Report from Loughbrough University
The IOC has publically committed itself to increasing the number of women occupying leadership positions within the Olympic Movement including the IOC itself. Despite some success this is still “work in progress”, and the goal of at least one-fifth of all decision-making positions being held by women has not been reached.
The 4th World Conference on Women and Sport (in 2008) called for a report to see what was slowing the progress and how key obstacles could be overcome. The second research document produced by the Loughbrough University (below), outlines:
· the current level of women’s involvement in leadership positions
· the experience of those women who have been successful case studies in leadership
· recommendations for key actions that must be taken by Olympic bodies to successfully promote women in sport
Read here the full report “Gender Equality and leadership in Olympic Bodies”
Representation of women within the IOC
In 1981, at the impetus of President Samaranch, two women were elected to the IOC. At present, there are 23 women out of 102 active members; and four women are members of the 15-person-strong IOC Executive Board. Similarly, IOC commissions and working groups are including more women than before, enabling them to give their direct contribution to all issues and policies on which the IOC is working.
For the first time in the history of the Olympic Movement, a woman, Anita DeFrantz, became IOC Vice-President in 1997. Gunilla Lindberg was subsequently elected to the same position for the period 2004-2008.
Olympic champion Nawal El Moutawakel from Morocco was elected as a member of the IOC Executive Board (EB) in 2008 and as IOC Vice-President in July 2012. She was the first woman ever to chair an IOC Evaluation Commission. After having done so successfully in the framework of the 2012 Olympic Games candidature procedure, she took on the same role for the 2016 Olympic Games and later became Chairperson of the Coordination Commission for the Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Gunilla Lindberg chaired the Evaluation Commission for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, which were awarded to PyeongChang on 6 July 2011 at the Session in Durban, South Africa, and since then, chairs the Coordination Commission for the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. She is also currently a member of the IOC Executive Board.
Four-time Olympic medallist and three-time world champion, Angela Ruggiero, was appointed to chair the IOC Coordination Commission for the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, and was recently elected as Vice Chair of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission.
Claudia Bokel, Olympic silver medallist in fencing at the Olympic Games in 2004, was elected Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission in 2012. She also is a member of the IOC Executive Board.