As I write this article, the Olympics are underway. This is a good time to reflect on the progress of women in the Winter Games. Among the 258 athletes lining up at the start of the first Winter Olympics held in 1924 in Chamonix, only 11 were female, all of them figure skaters. By 1960, 20 percent of the athletes were women. Over the years, more sports opened up to women, but always with a fight. The first woman served on the IOC Executive Board in 1990. In 1991, a historic decision was made by the IOC: Any new sport seeking to be included on the Olympic program had to include women’s events
Women athletes made up 43 percent of all athletes at the 2018 Winter Games, up from 40 percent in 2014. They can compete in all events. However, even in disciplines where female athletes have achieved equal participation, many of their events have different durations and distances, stereotyping women as weaker and less skilled than men. They jump off shorter hills, ski and speed skate shorter distances, and compete on shorter bobsleds.
One has to wonder how much the passage of Title IX in 1972 had to do with the emergence of. American women in the Winter Games. Bravo to all the women athletes! While Title IX was a great step forward, we still have our work cut out for us. Just last month the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated in the Virginia legislature despite the efforts of woman’s rights activist across the state. Why is the ERA important? The answers are in the video “Equal Means Equal,” which our branch showed last year. Liz Jordan will be glad to arrange a showing if there is enough interest.