Women making history in 2012 Olympics

With the 2012 Summer Olympic games less than two weeks away, many countries are finalizing team rosters and the athletes who will represent them in the world competition.

Saudi Arabia allows first female athletes

Two stories in this week’s coverage leading up to the games, however, focused on the female athletes who will take part in the London games. For the first time, all of the 204 countries participating will include female athletes. This milestone came once Saudi Arabia announced this week it would send two women to compete in judo and the 800-meter race. Two other countries, Qatar and Brunei, will send women to the games for the first time as well. One of Qatar’s three female athletes, Bahiya al-Ahmad, will carry her country’s flag in the opening ceremonies.

Once the Saudi Embassy in London announced they would allow a female athlete who could qualify to compete, it became clear that no women in the country had met the qualifying times. According to the Wall Street Journal, an International Olympic Committee spokeswoman said both Saudi athletes were accepted under the Olympics’ “universality” clause, which allows athletes who didn’t meet qualifying times to compete when their participation is deemed important for reasons of equality.

Despite international coverage, Saudi media outlets still did not highlight the announcement. According to the Associated Press, both athletes live outside the kingdom and carry almost no influence as sports figures. The nation still bans women from driving or traveling without the approval of a male guardian. While girl’s sports are effectively banned in the nation’s schools, viewers of mixed audiences will be able to watch the women compete.

United States’ team brings more female athletes than male

In another first for the Olympic Games, team U.S.A. will have more female athletes than males at this year’s games, prompting USA Today to call the event the “Title IX Olympics.” The 530-member team is comprised of 269 women and 261 men. In comparison, 2008’s team in Bejing had a roster of 310 men and 286 women.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the shift in numbers can be explained more through changes to sports included or removed from this year’s roster, as well as the U.S. men’s soccer team’s failure to qualify. Softball and baseball were both removed in 2012, but the first female boxer from the United States and the qualification of the women’s field hockey team added athletes to the final total. Women also represent the youngest and oldest athletes to compete for the United States.

In the last 40 years, women’s participation in the summer games has more than tripled, making them 45 percent of the 2012 athletes. Until the 1984 Los Angeles Games, women were not allowed to run a marathon. Less than 20 years ago, at the 1996 Atlanta Games, 26 countries did not send women.

“The I.O.C. has been striving to ensure a greater gender balance at the Olympic Games, and today’s news can be seen as an encouraging evolution,” Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said Thursday in a statement about the participation of Saudi women.

The opening ceremony for the London games will be held July 27.

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.


To Our Readers

Dear readers, visitors, and faithful supporters –

When we started talking about this idea of gender representation in a digital media world, we thought maybe we’d find some interesting articles here or there. But as we’ve found time and time again, the lights are still off for the majority of women in both bylines and media representation.

While we remain committed to this mission, we have recognized that some portions of the site have been lacking in recent weeks, and others could use revision. In light of this, we are excited to announce a re-commitment to our work, as well as some changes to our posts and focus:

  • Gender Checks – After careful consideration, we’ve decided to bring our Gender Check project to a close. While this project was helpful in providing us with a glimpse of gender in online news (see results from year one of that project here), we feel the need to introduce more systematic and nuanced studies of women’s representation. Watch for posts in the next week wrapping up that project and sharing our data from the four months of that study in 2012.
  • Byline Report – One of the new projects we are undertaking as a result is a weekly byline report from a number of online news sites. Data collection will begin July 1. Those reports will monitor bylines for a Sunday through Saturday week and be released the following Wednesday.
  • Week in Review – We will continue our Saturday posts, looking at trending gender topics. Look for tomorrow’s post in honor of Nora Ephron.
  • Women in Journalism: Reading Lists – This popular feature highlighting interesting reads on women and journalism will still be released each Sunday.

And, look forward to some new additions to our work, including continuing looks at the presidential election and its involvement with gender issues. We will start this work next week with a breakdown of what each candidate has said so far and where they stand on specific issues like women’s health.

As always, we are open to your thoughts and suggestions. Have a study you’d like to see us tackle or a question you’d like answered related to gender representations in online news? Feel free to get in touch with us via email (genderreport[@]gmail.com), social media or in the comment section below. We appreciate your continued readership and support.

Gender Check 6/4/12 – South

*Gender Checks are quick examinations of gender representation in individual news articles for the purpose of discovering trends over time. Click here to read more.

Website: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of the lead articles featured on the home page as of 9 p.m. EST on Monday, June 4, was titled “Medicaid More Than Medical Aid”.

Here is its breakdown:

Subject:  Science and Health: Medicine (Global Media Monitoring Project 20)

Word count: 1,466

Authors: Female (2)

Human sources (listed in order mentioned):

  1. Male – healthcare employee
  2. Female – public policy director
  3. Male – public policy director
  4. Male – medicaid policy expert
  5. Female – public policy advisor
  6. Male – state health agency director
  7. Female – regional service organization director
  8. Male – insurance agency director
  9. Male – patient
  10. Female – former First Lady
  11. Male – state agency commissioner

Notes/Analysis: Two pictures in a photo gallery accompanied this story, the second in a three-part series. Both photos featured male subjects.

Website: Patch Buckhead

On Patch Buckhead, one of the lead articles featured on the home page as of 9 p.m. EST on Monday, June 4, was titled “Pre-K registration, Boortz Retires, Cascade resident soon to have new home.

Here is its breakdown:

Subject: various

Word count: n/a

Author: Male

Human sources (listed in order mentioned):


Gender Check 5/7/12 – South

*Gender Checks are quick examinations of gender representation in individual news articles for the purpose of discovering trends over time. Click here to read more.

Website: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of the lead articles featured on the home page as of 5 p.m. EST on Monday, May 7, was titled “Colotl Allowed to Stay for Another Year”.

Here is its breakdown:

Subject:  Social and Legal: Legal System (Global Media Monitoring Project 35)

Word count: 288

Author: Female

Human sources (listed in order mentioned):

  1. Male – attorney

Website: Patch Buckhead

On Patch Buckhead, one of the lead articles featured on the home page as of 5 p.m. EST on Monday, May 7, was titled “Buckhead vs. Midtown”

Here is its breakdown:

Subject: Social and Legal – development issues (Global Media Monitoring Project No. 26)

Word count: 533

Author: Female (assumed posted by editor who is female)

Human sources (listed in order mentioned):


Campaigns fight for women’s votes, shift to economic focus

As Mitt Romney moves into the position of defacto GOP nominee for president, the fight for the votes of women continues to wage in polling, pundit comments and attacks from both parties about who is the best candidate for women’s issues. Earlier campaign fighting focused on healthcare and the debate over contraception, with some labeling the GOP legislative agenda as a “war on women.”

This past week that fight took on an economic twist. Fact checkers quickly pounced on Romney’s statement in a speech to a women’s owned business that 92.3% of jobs lost since Obama took office were held by women. Later in the week, Romney paused when asked if he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which makes it easier workers to sue over gender pay disparity (earlier in the week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who Romney has expressed past support for, repealed the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act.) Romney’s campaign later said he “supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.”

But Democrats had their own share of fumbles with women this week, despite polls that show President Obama leading Romeny with female voters by double digit margins. Democratic strategist and former Obama adivsor Hilary Rosen criticized Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, as not being in touch with the economic issues facing women because she “never worked a day in her life.” Later, Bill Maher took the sentiment a step further, saying on his HBO show “What she meant to say, I think, was that Ann Romney has never gotten her ass out of the house to work.” Maher recently donated $1 million to a pro-Obama super PAC.

Mrs. Romney referred to the Rosen’s statement as an “early birthday gift” and was quick to retort that staying home to raise her five children was her own choice. President Obama included a statement in a campaign speech saying there is no tougher job than being a mom. Democatic operatives also put distance between the party of Rosen, who later retracted her “poorly chosen” words.

Want more about women’s role in the campaign this week? Check out these other sources: