Women in the News: The Summer Olympics and Washington DC|
In this year’s Summer Olympics, more women are competing
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are less than two weeks away and the games have already made history: For the first time ever, all of the participating countries will have female athletes competing.
Only sixteen years ago (four Summer Olympics), 26 countries still competed with only male athletes. After Qatar and Brunei decided to send female athletes to London, Saudi Arabia was the last country that made sure this year’s Olympics reached another milestone. The two women who will compete for Saudi Arabia did not qualify for the games but received a special invitation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC): in the ultraconservative country, women are officially banned from sports and women and men are not allowed to mix in public – this makes it impossible for women to qualify for international competitions. Saudi Arabia’s most successful female athletes therefore practice outside of their country and away from the strict policies.
Human Rights Groups and the IOC see Saudi Arabia’s decision as a symbolic step in the right direction – even though it mainly improves the image of the country and probably won’t have an immediate impact on women and their rights.
The US team, on the other hand, has its own reason to celebrate (in their Chinese-made uniforms): For the first time ever, their Olympic delegation will consist of more female than male athletes: Women (269 participants) outnumber the men (261 participants) by 8 athletes! What a birthday present for Title IX!
And more women are watching
The 2012 Summer Olympics will not only have a lot more female athletes but a large female audience. A small study by the University of Tennessee found that women preferred watching the Olympics compared to other sports events. The main reason seems to be that the events are presented in short, easy-to follow chunks. Paired with athletes’ background stories and condensed overviews of highlights, big international sports events such as the Olympics make it easy for a short-term commitment during the day – compared to following a particular sport or team for a whole season. The fast and exciting pace of the events make Olympic games very appealing for people who are usually not interested in sports.
As mentioned earlier, it was a small focus group study but the results show another interesting trend: When women watch the Olympics they prefer traditionally feminine events such as gymnastics, or tennis.
My two cents: I think the best part about the Summer Olympics are the male athletes (in their tiny outfits) who usually only add to the excitement and the Olympic spirit.
Done with Seventeen, on to Teen Vogue
Keeping up and ideally being better than your competition seems logical for athletes but not so much for the fashion magazine market. After last week’s Photoshop triumph with Seventeen Magazine, another group of dedicated teens collected over 28,000 signatures within only a few days and staged a protest in front of Teen Vogue’s offices. They demanded from the magazine to “keep it real”, follow in Seventeen Magazine’s footsteps and adjust their Photoshop policies. Teen Vogue wasn’t all that thrilled but met with some of the protesters and issued a statement saying that they make “a conscious and continuous effort to promote a positive body image among our readers”. Furthermore the magazine supposedly features a lot of healthy models and apparently never has and never will alter the models’ body sizes. Teen Vogue has not (yet) agreed to publish that statement in an upcoming issue.
Maybe after the Olympics, the IOC can send out one of their special invitations and start negotiating with Teen Vogue as well.
Asking for More in Washington
It seems that every few weeks a new study pops up that compares incomes of male and female employees in a certain field. Recently we looked at doctors, now a study examines how much staff members of the House and the Senate earn. One might think that they probably don’t experience a significant pay gap and their supervisors don’t really see it as such an issue that has to be addressed nationwide. (More or less) Wrong.
There is a pay gap – it’s not as significant as in other fields but it does vary between the parties: female House GOP staffers make on average $10,000 less than their fellow male colleagues.
If you are a staff member of the House Democrats, the difference is “only” around $1400 a year. For the Senate, the Republican difference is about $7000 but female Democratic Senate members earn almost $5000 less than their male colleagues.
Let’s look at the average for an easier comparison: female House members earn about $5800 less (90 cents on the dollar) and female Senate members earn about $7000 less (89 cents on the dollar) than their male colleagues. The national average is at 77 cents on the dollar.
A lot of that difference can be blamed on the fact that women often have lower level jobs and the study mentions that many female staff members think that they have– compared to the men’s opportunities– fewer chances to advance and get promotions, and experience more discrimination.
Both the House and Senate members are better off than the average woman – yet the explanation (aka excuse) is the same. The pay gap issue goes all the way to the roots of where policies can be changed – I am not sure if this is good or bad news.
Even in Washington, women have to ask for more. But as long as the people who are in charge and vote actually earn that dollar and not just a fragment of it, the gap will close very slowly.