IOC Hits New Record with 47.7% Women

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
1900 2.20%
1904 0.90%
1908 1.80%
1912 2.00%
1920 2.40%
1924 4.40%
1928 9.60%
1932 9.00%
1936 8.30%
1948 9.50%
1952 10.50%
1956 13.30%
1960 11.40%
1964 13.20%
1968 14.20%
1972 14.60%
1976 20.70%
1980 21.50%
1984 23.00%
1988 26.10%
1992 28.80%
1996 24.00%
2000 38.20%
2004 40.70%
2008 42.40%
2012 44.20%
2016 45.00%

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Track Start
2 years ago

Hire best person for the job.

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Maybe i’m reading you wrong Braden, but wow, how cynical. Change starts with an idea, a mindset. Track Start and A Girl Swimmer are absolutely correct. But neither said they had an ultimate solution. For any one to think that things have not changed for both women, sexual and racial minorities (despite what is happening in Minneapolis right now) is either unaware of the past or a liar. Just look at the chart above. Huge progress. I work at a hospital system with many, many female and African-American physicians. There is an LGBTQ healthcare workers group here. So, so different than even 20 years ago and unheard of 50-60 years ago. Social norm changes, for things that are thousands of… Read more »

Track Start
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

No need to thank me BK, but appreciate the kind words.

Reply to  Track Start
2 years ago

If we did that, 50 percent of the time it would be a man, and 50 percent of the time it would be a woman (on average). Look forward to the 50:50 world …..

2 years ago

I am all for women in sport, and think no person should feel discouraged to apply for positions or roles within sport, simply based on their gender or race. However, I believe it is not right for the IOC to be specifically seeking a 50-50 female to male ratio within its committee. Females should be encouraged to apply for these positions, but should not be given a greater chance at securing the job because the IOC wants “more women in sport”, which is what I feel as though they are doing. The person most qualified should be given the role on these boards, not the person who makes the IOC’s stats look better. I am not saying there arent women… Read more »

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

I agree with a “A GIRL SWIMMER” in that we shouldn’t have to do this. You should simply hire the best candidate available. I also agree with Braden that there are still intentional or unintentional bias’s at play, so it’s a tough topic to weigh in on.

Sometimes we need to account for the fact that there just simply isn’t enough interested and/or qualified candidates in the target group. For example, my company recently built out two offices in India and we set out to hire 30% of a certain demographic, but the reality was that in the region and for that skill set, there simply wasn’t enough people in the talent pool to draw from to meet the quota… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Adding on to this: people of certain demographics have access to opportunities and resources that other demographics don’t. For example, someone from a wealthier upbringing might have had the ability to take on an unpaid internship (which increases their chances of being hired for better jobs in the future) while someone from a poorer upbringing had to turn the unpaid internship down in favor of a minimum wage retail job to ensure they can eat. By setting out these targets, the IOC is trying to ensure they don’t contribute to further inequalities

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

So who specifically are you accusing Braden? Please don’t make broad-sweeping accusations without specifics. Because my experience at my very large hospital system is not as you say “anyone who’s worked….”

Track Start
Reply to  meeeee
2 years ago
2 years ago

We need to be advocating for people of color as well.

A Male Swimmer
2 years ago

Good. There is a total lack of females at the professional level in the swimming community. If you look at most professional programs in the USA and Canada you will notice it’s almost 100% a male dominant work field. Hopefully sports on all levels will start to respect and include all genders allowing creativity from people who have long been pushed aside and voices who have been silenced.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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