The International Olympic Committee on Thursday touted a new step toward gender equality across its governance with the announcement of the composition of its commissions for 2020.
The Commissions are made up of IOC members.. The positions are filled by appointment of the IOC president, in consultation with the executive board. Currently, 4 out of 16 members of the Executive Board are women.
As part of its Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC committed to encourage the whole Olympic Movement to advance gender equality both on and off the field. In 2013, the 30 IOC Commissions were made up of 20% females. In 2020, that number is up to 47.7%. That’s an increase from 45.4% in 2019.
Commission leadership still lags, with 11 out of 30 (36.7%) chaired by women. But, the 2020 announcement includes two new female appointments to chair positions: Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul, IOC Member in Thailand, has been appointed Chair of the Culture and Olympic Heritage Commission; and Zhang Hong, IOC Member in China, will be the Chair of the newly-formed IOC Coordination Commission for the 4th Winter Youth Olympic Games Gangwon 2024.
That Winter Youth Olympic Game commission has 5 women among 6 members.
Khunying Patama Leeswadtrakul became the first Thai woman to be elected as an IOC Member at the 131st IOC Session in Lima, Peru, in 2017. She currently holds the position of Deputy President of the Badminton World Federation and is Chair of the Culture Committee at the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). She has been a member of the IOC Culture and Olympic Heritage Commission since 2018, and brings a wealth of experience from both the sporting and cultural domains to her new role.
Zhang Hong won the first-ever speed skating Olympic gold medal for China at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. In 2015, she became a Promotion Ambassador for Beijing’s bid to host the Olympic Winter Games 2022. At the 132nd IOC Session in PyeongChang, Zhang was elected onto the IOC Athletes’ Commission. She is also a member of the Athletes’ Entourage Commission and was a member of the Evaluation Commission for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games 2026.
“Advancing women in leadership roles in sport is truly a team effort, and I want to thank all those who have contributed to this for their continued support, commitment and inspiration,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “There is always more that can be done, and we can make progress only if we work on this together.
“By increasing female participation in IOC commissions and the number of female chairs on IOC commissions, the IOC is hearing the female voice more and more and ensuring that women and girls can be empowered by using the powerful platform that sport provides to promote gender equality.”
Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Kirsty Coventry continues in her role as president of the athletes’ commission in 2020.
At the most recent Olympic Games, in Pyeongchang in 2018, 41% of participants were women. The IOC projects that 48.8% of the participants at the Tokyo Olympic Games next summer will be women.
At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, only 24% of participants were women. The numbers have been increasing rapidly since then, with the biggest jump coming at the 2000 Olympic Games in Athens, where at least 7 new women’s spots were added to the program.
Historical Participation of Women at the Summer Olympics
% of participants who are women