Women first took part in the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, according to the International Olympic Committee. At the time, out of 997 participating athletes, only 22 were women. By the 2012 Olympics in London, the number of participants had grown to 4,676, with significant rises in the number of participants beginning in 1972. Additionally, the number of sports and events that women could compete in increased from 4 in 1900 to 166 in 2012. In an article recently published in the Journal of Sports Economics entitled “Guys and Gals Going for Gold: The Role of Women’s Empowerment in Olympic Success”, the role of women’s empowerment is discussed in relation to the escalation of both the amount of female participants and their success.
We test the hypothesis that women’s empowerment correlates with women’s international athletic success. Greater gender equality (measured using the Gender Inequality Index) is associated with higher participation and medal counts in the Summer Olympic Games from 1996 through 2012. This relationship persists even after controlling for previously identified nation-level predictors of Olympic success and across alternative measures of success (such as shares of the total, percentage within each country, and medals per athlete). These results provide direct evidence for the long-standing claim that girls’ and women’s international athletic achievement is linked to women’s empowerment.
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