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Gender parity in sport: There is still no gender equality behind the scenes

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Gender parity in sport: There is still no gender equality behind the scenes

As of: March 7, 2024 11:49 p.m

Olympic sport celebrates its diversity and gender parity at the Paris Olympics. But behind the scenes he is still a long way from gender parity, let alone gender equality.

Of the 10,500 participants at the Olympic Games in Paris, half are female. The keyword is gender parity. But that’s not all. In order to give athletes more visibility, the organizers in Paris have done a lot.

For example, the competitions with female participation were scheduled so that they take place on TV or live streams at times with high coverage. And the conclusion of the Olympic competitions in the summer of 2024 will not be the men’s marathon, but the women’s marathon.

Nothing more than a numbers game

These are all very laudable, if long overdue, measures to increase the visibility of women in sport. But in the end, the now celebrated gender parity is nothing more than a numbers game. “It’s almost a bit outdated because we needed this tool. Just as we need women’s quotas, we need gender parity at the Olympic Games to show: We have a problem in representation here and we have to change something about it,” says Bettina Rulofs from the Cologne Sports University.

On the pitch, the problem of representation with gender parity is at least partially solved. However, only in relation to the entirety of all participants – and a binary understanding of gender. At the national level, however, the differences are huge.

But even behind the scenes, Olympic sport is still a long way from gender parity, let alone gender equality. For example, only 13 percent of the coaches in Tokyo were female. For the technical officials – referees, for example – it was at least 30 percent.

Sport remains a male domain

No matter how we twist and turn the numbers, sport remains in most cases a male domain, says Christiana Schallhorn, junior professor of sport and sociology at the University of Mainz. “We see in very different areas – whether it’s athletes themselves, whether it’s fans, whether it’s journalists or other actors who are involved in sport – the majority are still men,” says the scientist. “And of course that sets a certain framework that makes it much more difficult to actually achieve equality.”

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Anne van Eickels, Sportschau, March 7, 2024 11:10 a.m

In principle, gender parity stipulates through a quota that as many men as women should be represented in corresponding positions. A benchmark that is clearly undercut in many areas of sport. According to the “Sports Political Power Index 2023″, presented by the Danish NOK’s public affairs director Poul Broberg at the Play the Game conference in February, of the 1,749 members of the executive committees of international sports associations, 75 percent are male . At the top of these associations – i.e. in the office of president – are almost exclusively men (94 percent).

The figures collected by the DOSB also show that men are disproportionately represented in most sports – with the exception of, for example, gymnastics and figure skating. Leading positions in clubs, such as the office of president, are rarely held by women.

Stereotypes dominate the reporting

And of course this also applies to media reporting. Most of the coverage is on male-dominated sports. And the majority of sports journalists are still male. When reports are made about women, certain stereotypes still dominate today, says Bettina Rulofs: “We have to pay much more attention to the fact that we need a cultural change, that there also needs to be changes in attitudes, in the way people think about women and think and talk about men and the genders.”

The good news at this point is: Something is happening. In all areas. But changing the structures sustainably remains difficult. Because they have grown over decades, says Christiana Schallhorn: “It’s not the case that you say that men explicitly exclude women. But you can still observe that there are informal rules that are known among men who perhaps don’t know women and therefore don’t find out one or two pieces of information or simply don’t take them into account. As a result, these male structures continue to strengthen and women remain somewhat left out in many areas.” This means that women must be actively considered.

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But these are not the only structures that make it difficult for women to actively participate in sports or sports clubs. It is also the social structures that still prevail. It has been proven that women, especially those with parenting or caring responsibilities, simply have less free time available. You already have a lot of responsibility in your everyday life. In addition, blatant failures in childcare have been recorded not only since the Corona pandemic – be it in toddler care or in schools.

All genders need opportunities to develop

If we are serious about equality in sport, then we have to create structures that enable women to actively participate. One task would be to research precisely in this area. There are numerous programs for the participation and promotion of women in sport. But they are of no use if they ignore the realities of women’s lives.

And speaking of the realities of life: This text also doesn’t represent all people who participate in sport: “We must now slowly come to the point of saying: We must see the entire gender diversity. We can no longer just concentrate on men and women “says Bettina Rulofs. Because inter-, intra-, transgender and non-binary people are also part of sporting diversity and need space, opportunities for development and participation. If we take gender parity seriously, all genders must be represented – and not just the binary understanding of gender that prevails in sport.

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