More Women Than Ever in 2012 Olympics So Why Are They Still Second Class?

At least two countries attending the 2012 Olympics made a policy decison to fly their male competitors business class and their female athletes in economy.

When I first heard this blatant piece of discrimination against women I honestly thought it must be wrong. Surely in this day and age no one could be that crass. After all, these are the Olympic Games with more women competing in them than ever before, the games which the Olympic president declared a ‘major boost for gender equality‘. How could it be true that both Australia and Japan flew men business class and its women economy.

Well, it seems they did. It was true. A storm of protest once the news broke means they’ll probably be a bit of tinkering and changing with return journeys but the fact remains – two of the most developed countries in the world initially thought this was OK. It was OK to treat women as second class citizens, literally. It wasn’t even remotely covert. It was an upfront decision, no mistake here.

Business Women – Equal or Not?

  • You have to wonder what that says about attitudes to women generally in those countries.
  • You have to wonder how easy it is to be a successful business woman in those countries.
  • You have to wonder what it’s like to be a young girl growing up in those countries and seeing your gender treated as second class.
  • You have to wonder how it felt to be part of a team that turned in different directions when boarding the plane. How valued would you feel?
  • You have to wonder how the male athletes felt? Surely they were embarrassed by their countries’ decisions?
  • You have to wonder if those countries are au fait with the research that shows that organisations fare better when there is an equal representation of the genders.

I work with senior women looking to progress in their careers who sometimes don’t even realise the level of discrimination they are subject to; rarely is it as overt as saying we won’t pay as much for your ticket. It’s more covert as in we won’t pay as much for occupations that are traditionally done by women; the subtext is women’s work is worth inherently less than men’s.  Or we’ll talk over you in meetings. We’ll have meetings in the pub after work and of course you’re very welcome. Although most organisations  have an equality and diversity policy you’ll have to look hard to find really senior women because they drop out, they can’t hack it after a certain level. At least that’s the sub text. It’s the fault of the women, not the system.

With no women in senior positions (or at least not enough) the system doesn’t change. One token woman on a board or at senior management can’t do it, which allows some men to be able to say ‘women aren’t cut out for this, they don’t really want it’. (Believe me, I’m working with women now who have had those things said to them by corporate directors.)

Much as the early Olympic committee members said women couldn’t run more than 200 metres as their bodies couldn’t take it.

Here’s an extract from the I.O.C’s fact sheet on women and the Olympics:

The IOC is committed to gender equality in sport.The Olympic Charter states that one of the roles of the IOC is “to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures, with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women” – (Rule 2, paragraph 7). Its commitment extends well beyond its efforts to increase women’s participation in the Olympic Games. The IOC also recognises that gender equality is a critical component of effective sports administration and continues to support the promotion of women and girls in sport at all levels and structures.and structures. ”

1981 was the first time a woman was allowed on the Olympic committee. It currently has 108 members and only 20 are women.

2012 has been a brilliant year for women competing in every sport offered by the Olympics. But real change will not happen unless women are in positions of power. The race is not won.

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Posted on August 9th, 2012 by

4 Responses to “More Women Than Ever in 2012 Olympics So Why Are They Still Second Class?”

  1. Shona Easton says:

    That’s outrageous Jane. A shocking story!
    I can’t believe that two countries such as Australia and Japan would do such a thing. All the women athlete’s should have united prior to travelling with the slogan, ‘the whole team travels in the same class, or the women don’t go’.
    I wonder what would have happened then? Would they have upgraded the women or downgraded the men?

  2. […] More Women Than Ever in 2012 Olympics So Why Are They Still Second Class? At least two countries attending the 2012 Olympics made a policy decison to fly their male competitors business class and their female athletes in economy. […]

  3. Anna Hall says:

    Shocking. Must admit, I have always liked mixed sports, where men and women compete on equal terms, such as all the equestrian events. I think these are the only Olympic sports where this is the case. The level of skill and courage you need to gallop flat out at solid fences, precision you need for dressage and the accuracy for show jumping is the same whether you are male or female. So well done to all the female and male equestrian medallists (most of which were gold for Team GB)!

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Anna. I often wonder why the female tennis players get such short matches too. Sporty people tell me they could easily play 5 sets.

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