In 1900, Paris made history by welcoming women to compete at the Olympic Games for the very first time. Now, 124 years later, the City of Light is poised to set another historic milestone. 

The 2024 Paris Olympics will make history by achieving numerical gender parity on the field of play, ensuring equal representation of male and female athletes. It's a monumental moment that symbolizes progress, equality and a steadfast commitment to inclusion at the largest sporting event in the world. 

Increasing women’s participation at the Olympics has been a journey that spans over a century, with the numbers steadily rising at each Games since Berlin 1936, when women comprised just 8.4% of the competitors. Come Tokyo 2020, women’s participation was up to 47.8% – the closest the Games had ever been to gender-balanced.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were a game-changer, introducing more opportunities for women to compete than ever before. The Games included 18 mixed-gender events, the addition of new events such as the women’s 15,000m freestyle for swimming and the women’s Canoe sprint, plus the addition of several new sports – softball, karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding – all open to women. 

With the goal of giving more visibility to women on the Olympic stage, Tokyo also saw the implementation of a rule change that allowed a male and female athlete to jointly carry their flag during the Opening Ceremony for the first time, which resulted in 91% of NOCs having a woman flag bearer. 

It was a major victory for women in sports and perfectly paved the way for Paris 2024 to achieve the historic milestone of full gender-parity.

What’s in store for Paris 2024?

In total, there will be 329 medal events at the 2024 Paris Olympics, which breaks down to 152 medal events for the women, 157 medal events for the men, and 20 mixed-gender medal events. The IOC estimates that over 5,000 women are expected to compete in Paris – a stark contrast from the 22 women who participated at the 1900 Paris Games. 

Efforts also have been made to ensure men’s and women’s sports are scheduled as fairly as possible throughout the Games, with the hope of increasing coverage of women’s sports in the media and making it easier for fans to watch from home. 

“The Olympic Games are a rare occasion when female athletes can make the headlines as much as their male counterparts,” IOC member Nawal El Moutawakel wrote in a statement. “We know that there are prime global broadcasting times at each edition of the Olympic Games. We have adjusted the schedule accordingly to ensure that a gender-balanced number of medal events and total competition hours take place during those time slots.”

Additionally, for the first time in Olympic history, the women’s marathon will conclude the Paris Games, taking place on the day of the Closing Ceremony – a slot traditionally reserved for the men’s marathon. Paris is set to flip the script, opting to showcase the performance of female athletes to close out the athletic program in Paris. 

It’s been a long road since the 1900 Paris Olympics, but Paris 2024 is sure to stand as a testament to the strides made over more than a century. 

Here’s a look back at some of the benchmark moments throughout women’s Olympic history. 

The history of women at the Olympics

Paris 1900: The 1900 Olympics in Paris were the first Games to include women. Of the 997 athletes who competed, 22 were women, according to the IOC. Tennis and golf were the only sports where women could compete in individual events. However, women could also participate in sailing, croquet and equestrian. At these Games, Swiss sailor Helene de Pourtales became the first woman to compete at the Olympics and the first woman to become an Olympic champion. Nearly two months later, English tennis player Charlotte Cooper became the first woman to win an individual Olympic event. She later went on to win the mixed doubles tournament as well.

Tokyo 1964: With a total of 18 Olympic medals across three Games, Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina became the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time. Her record held until American swimmer Michael Phelps surpassed her at the 2012 London Games. However, ahead of Paris 2024, Larisa still holds the record for the most Olympic medals for a woman. 

Larisa Latynina
Central Press/Getty Images

1991: A new rule is introduced which states that any sport applying for Olympic recognition must include women’s events. 

1996: The promotion of women becomes a mission of the IOC and is enshrined in the Olympic Charter. Rule 2.8 states that the goal 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.”

Athens 2004: Women from Afghanistan competed at the Olympics for the first time in history. 

London 2012: With the addition of women’s boxing, the 2012 London Games marked the first Olympics where women competed in every sport on the Olympic program. Notably, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei, which had historically banned women from Olympic participation, also sent female athletes for the very first time. This made London 2012 the first Games where every participating country had female competitors. 

Sarah Attar
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Tokyo 2020: The 2020 Tokyo Games were close to achieving gender-balance, with 47.8% of the athletes being women. The growth from Tokyo 1964, where only 13% of the athletes were women, had been significant. The IOC also encouraged nations to select one man and one woman to jointly carry their flag during the Opening Ceremony, which resulted in 91% of NOCs having a woman flag bearer. 

Paris 2024:  For the first time in history, women will have the same number of spots in the Games as men. 

Numbers to know

  • 10,500 athletes are estimated to compete in Paris, and for the first time, the IOC has distributed an equal number of quota places between men and women
  • There will be 329 medal events in Paris: 152 medal events for the women, 157 medal events for the men, and 20 mixed-gender medal events
  • 28 out of 32 sports will be fully gender-balanced in Paris
  • During the last four Olympics, women have captured more than half of all American medals, despite having fewer opportunities to compete compared to men. This is without factoring in their contributions in mixed-gender events. 
  • At the Tokyo Olympics, the American women won 66 medals, which is 58.4% of the American medal contingent. Of the 39 gold medals won, 23 were won by women. 

What the athletes are saying

Daniela Moroz

“What a time to be a woman in sports! Especially in sailing, too. It’s always been such a male dominated sport. It’s going to be the first time sailing also has gender equity, so it’s all these steps in the right direction. For sure once you move into the more professional side of sailing it’s more of a boys club, but the Olympics is the epitome of sports. It’s the pinnacle of high-performance sports. There’s so many opportunities now for women in sailing and to be a part of that first generation to see results of that is really exciting.” -Daniela MorozSailing 

Gabby Thomas

“It’s great to know the Olympics will have an equal number of men and women participating in Paris. It should have happened a long time ago, but I welcome the opportunity for more women to compete and have their chance to shine on the world stage. It’s been an amazing time for women in sport overall, and I hope people tune in to see some incredible performances that are sure to come at the Games.” -Gabby Thomas, Track & Field

Amit Elor

“The growth of women's wrestling makes me feel amazing as somebody who grew up wrestling only boys and feeling so isolated. It's just amazing to witness all the little girls that are wrestling these days and everything that's been happening and how quickly it's been happening too. It's been a long time coming, but to be part of this movement, and to witness it happening is so motivating and heartwarming.” -Amit ElorWrestling 

Sky Brown

“(In Paris), I want them to see the girl power of this sport. I just really hope we'll inspire them and show them that you can do anything you put your mind to. I'm only going to be 16, and this is my second Olympics. I really did believe in myself, I worked hard, put my mind on it, and I made it.” -Sky BrownSkateboarding

Karlie Kisha

“It’s really cool to see how, even just this last year, women's sports has exploded – as it should, as it deserves to. It’s really exciting that I get to witness and be a part of this whole movement. It’s a really exciting time to be a female athlete.” -Karlie KishaField Hockey

Information from the International Olympic Committee and was used for the curation of this article. NBC Olympics Research also contributed to this story.