Female participation in international sports has been on a significant increase for some years now. Does increasing female participation in sports portend anything more significant for the nature of competition in both female and male sports? To find out the answer, it is important to examine participatory trends and what might occur as more of those women take on influential positions in athletics after their own playing careers are over.
This summer, for the first time ever, more female athletes than male represented the United States at the summer Olympics. The American delegation was 52.6% female—292 out of 555 participants.
Four decades earlier, in 1976, the female representation on the American summer Olympics team was only 29.8%, and 20 years ago, in 1996, it was 41.9%. One likely reason for this steady increase is Title IX, which since 1972 has provided more female athletes with sports training opportunities through prohibiting discrimination based on sex in any educational program that receives financial aid.
Admittedly, not all female Olympians train at educational institutions, nor could Title IX alone explain why women have increased as a percentage of the Olympic delegation at a steady rate of over 10% for the past four decades. Yet, one could hardly expect that by 2020, this pace will continue so that well over 60% of the team will be female.