Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

How Paris 2024 aims to become the first-ever gender-equal Olympics

The logo of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is seen on an official Paris 2024 store in Paris, France, February 8, 2024. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Paris 2024 Olympic Games this summer is set to achieve full gender parity – with equal representation for both women and men on the field of play. Image: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Gender Inequality

  • Paris 2024 is set to make Olympic history by achieving full gender parity on the field of play for the first time.
  • There are equal numbers of women and male athletes competing this summer.
  • Despite these advancements, the world still has a way to go towards complete gender equality. It's estimated to take another 131 years to reach full parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023.

A “monumental achievement” will be celebrated at this year’s Olympic Games in Paris, France.

For the first time in Olympic history, women athletes will have as many places in the Games as male athletes.

This 50:50 allocation means the Paris 2024 Olympic Games this summer will be the first Olympics ever to achieve full gender parity – equal representation for both women and men – on the field of play.

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organizes the Games, described the milestone as “one of the most important moments in the history of women at the Olympic Games, and in sport overall”.

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Participation of female athletes at the Olympic Games.
Women and men will be equally represented at the Paris 2024 Olympics for the first time in the history of the Games. Image: IOC

It’s been a long road for Olympic women

Women have come a long way since competing in the Olympic Games for the first time in 1900, also in Paris. That year, women represented only 2.2% of all participants.

Most competed in sports considered suitably “feminine”, like golf or tennis, according to the Olympics news site Around the Rings. Women were also banned from competing in long, athletic events after the Amsterdam 1928 Olympics because of “physical weakness”.

But women athlete numbers grew steadily and accelerated from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, US, when women represented 23% of Olympic participants.

By the London 2012 Olympics, 44% of the athletes were women. London 2012 was described as ‘The Women’s Games’ because it was the first time in the Olympics that every country taking part had women athletes in their teams.


Why Olympic gender parity matters

Sport can change lives, says UN Women, the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. This includes promoting leadership, teamwork, self-reliance and confidence in women.

Gender parity also benefits economies and societies more widely.

In its Global Gender Gap Report 2023, the World Economic Forum found that progress in closing gender gaps means more growth, innovation, and resilience for countries.

The report stated that the gender gap across 146 countries is currently 68.4% closed, but equal representation between men and women across the economic, political, health, and education spheres is still 131 years away at the current rate of progress.


What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programmes are helping to drive gender parity and most companies are implementing programmes focusing on women – including 60% of organizations surveyed in the media, entertainment and sports industries, the Global Gender Gap Report found.

DEI programmes focusing on women, by industry
Companies are implementing DEI programmes with a focus on women, including in the media, entertainment and sports industries. Image: Gender Gap Report 2023

Gender equality beyond the Olympics

Other gender initiatives at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games include a more gender-balanced number of medal events, with 152 women’s events, 157 men’s events and 20 mixed-gender events.

But the IOC says its commitment to advancing gender equality does not end in Paris.

We will “keep leading the way and using the power of sport to contribute to a more equal and inclusive society,” it says.

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