The Hart of the Matter: Women in athletics deserve better representation

By Lily Hartenstein

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The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games recently began, and my eyes have been glued to the television ever since. I wanted to ignore the politics and just “ooh” and “aah” at every perfectly executed triple axel, but the reality of the way the international competition is run cannot be hidden.

I grew up seeing the Olympic season as a time of wonder and amazement, marvelling at the most talented athletes in the world.

The Olympics were also a time whenI saw people like me. Throughout the rest of the year, screens around me were always showing men’s football, men’s basketball and men’s baseball. During the Olympics, I got to see women taking center stage, inspiring me to pursue athletics.

My wonderment towards the Olympics made it hard to recognize its fundamental issues. There is a real gender disparity within the international competition, and it breeds a hostile environment towards women.

Women make up almost half of the athletes in the Olympics. This fact is touted as a success as a representation of sexism within sports disappearing as we progress towards equality.

While the gender ratio among  athletes is close to equal, the Olympics as an organization is not. Women only make up a fifth of the members of the National Olympic Committee Executive Board, a fourth of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board and 15 percent of the International Federation Executive Board in 2015, according to the official Olympics website.

The fact that a group of only 20 percent is representing a group of almost 50 percent is a red flag in itself, and the the issue manifests into situations such as the Larry Nassar scandal.

Nassar was a doctor for the U.S.A. gymnastics team who was recently sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on criminal sexual assault charges, according to TIME magazine. He was accused of the offenses by over 100 athletes, most of whom were underaged. His abuse was brought to light by high-profile Olympian gymnasts from the U.S., such as Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, whose testimonies dated back through years of abuse.

Assuits were taken out against Nassar himself by his victims, those who endured his abuse also filed lawsuits against USA Gymnastics, for lack of sufficient action in regards to the reports of sexual assault.

After the Nassar trial, the chairman, vice chairman and secretary of the board of USA Gymnastics resigned, according to the New York Times. Kerry Perry is the new CEO and president.

“New board leadership is necessary because the current leaders have been focused on establishing that they did nothing wrong,” the United States Olympic Committee’s chief executive Scott Blackmun said in a statement. “The Olympic family failed these athletes and we must continue to take every step necessary to ensure this never happens again.”

Larry Nassar’s years of inflicting abuse are a product of what happens when female athletes are represented by a board of men. USA Gymnastics and the Olympic committee made the correct decision in  replacing  these complacent men with a Perry, woman who understands the issues that women face.

However,  Larry Nassar is not alone, and his years of molesting are not an isolated event. Until the Olympic Committee Boards are equal, the Olympics are not equal.  

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