Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gender inequity in the Olympics

Well, the games are finally over, so all you Americans get go ahead and forget the metric system for the next 3.95 years. But now that the results are in, I thought I’d play with the numbers a bit.

The official website breaks the medal tally down into men’s and women’s events. Looking at the statistics, I noticed that a few countries were much more successful with one gender than another. There aren’t any sensible biological or geographic reasons for why this might be the case, so I decided to graph up the results just to see who fell where. Weighting the medals so that gold=3 bronze and silver=2 bronze, I calculated the fraction won by men.

I call this number the chauvinism index, as it seems to reflect the extent to which female athletes are not brought up to the same standard as their male counterparts. So a country with male medalists and no female medalists would have a chauvinism index of 1, while one with only female medalists would have a chauvinism index of zero. One minus the chauvinism index would of course be the emasculation index, and a perfect balanced nation would score 0.5 on both scales.

The Chauvinism index for all countries with ten or more total medals is shown below:

As you can see, the French are the biggest chauvinists, while the Dutch are most pussy-whipped. As if we didn’t know that already. Note that we expect the average to be greater than 0.5, since there are more men’s events than women’s events. Extracting trends or cultural significance is left as an exercise for the reader.


Sara said...

this is a very interesting analysis, though i have to say, i think the french get a bad rap whereas the dutch get a unfairly good one if we say that we know the french are chauvinistic and the dutch arent. at least with respect to women in the workplace. i have talked with some friends who live in the netherlands about working women and there its quite common for women to work part time after having a kid, but the people i know (one of whom works out of the home, the other who doesnt) both say that full time work is strongly discouraged (both actively and through the lack of good affordable childcare) whereas in france going back to work after maternity leave is the normal thing to do (and helped by lots of state subsidized childcare)

Anonymous said...

Looking at the results-link, the Olympics gave out 532 medals to men and 396 to women. Yowza! I would have guessed that there were more men's events, but 1/3 more surprized me.

Anyway, calculating the chauvinistic index for the games as a whole, the number is about 0.579. So, maybe some of those countries with an index between 0.500 and 0.579 are being misjudged.

C W Magee said...

I thought about normalizing the country ratios to the total, but I figured that would just paper over the structural inequity that exists in the competition.