Why better representation of women at Tokyo 2020 can only be a good thing - Women's Running

Why better representation of women at Tokyo 2020 can only be a good thing

Author: Holly Taylor

Read Time:   |  August 5, 2021

The Olympic Committee for Tokyo 2020 is calling for equal and fair representation of sportspeople in the media throughout the Games

With the Olympics well underway in Tokyo, it’s been a joy to watch world-class athletes bring us together through sport. There’s nothing like the shared pride of seeing somebody you can relate to and respect standing on a podium, being celebrated for their achievements.

I’m talking about pride in my country here, of course, but I’m also talking about pride in other women. It means the world to me when women are lifted up, especially on such a huge stage, and I always want to see more of it.

But historically, representation of women at the Olympics has been poor. Nearly 50% of athletes participating this year are female, but men – and particularly white men – have previously enjoyed more coverage. They also still make up the majority of key decision makers, with almost 70% of IOC (International Olympic Committee) members being male. The committee currently has no data on the number of non-binary participants.

In time for the Tokyo games, the committee has introduced a Portrayal in Sport checklist to be issued to media outlets to ensure fairer representation of all Olympic athletes regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or socio-economic status. This falls in line with their new 2024 inclusion and representation objectives, and is an excellent step towards ensuring that we see an accurate picture of the diverse talent on show.

The checklist advises on content, imagery, wording and voice, stating that the IOC deem the women’s and men’s events to be of equal importance and worthy of equal weighting. This year’s Games also feature 18 mixed events, compared to just 8 at London 2012.

The Olympics are a vital opportunity to showcase new role models for young people in sport. Just like I get a particular kick out of women’s success, young people across the world are inspired to achieve when they see themselves in the people they look up to.

A 2017 study form Women In Sport suggests that more young girls drop out of sport than boys, with only 8% of girls meeting the recommended 60 minutes of exercise a day. The reasons most young women gave for dropping out were related to body image issues, periods, feeling self-conscious or not feeling encouraged. If we can show women and girls that they belong in sport through equal representation then we should see an influx of young female athletes paving the way for generations to come.

This goes for race, sexuality and economic background, too – you can’t be what you can’t see, and in order to create a more diverse playing field in sport we need to lift up marginalised young athletes.

We’re thrilled to be seeing more women of different backgrounds and identities in this year’s Games. Sport can often cause division, and while we should all feel a sense of pride in seeing the people we can relate to succeed, we shouldn’t confuse this with the exclusion of others. Tokyo 2020 is a perfect place to show that athletic talent comes in many forms, and we hope to see more inclusive coverage in sport moving forward.

Written by

Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor is the digital editor of Women’s Running and co-host of the Women’s Running podcast, where she shares her running journey as well as the inspiring stories of women runners all over the country. She’s never been the sporty type, but running is the first time she’s felt real joy in getting active. She loves talking about running with a community of inclusive and supportive runners, and Women's Running is the perfect space for this. She's currently aiming for a half marathon PB!

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