Women starred at 2022 Winter Olympics, but men photographed most of the action

Curling - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 16
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Millions of moments were captured by photographers at the 2022 Winter Olympics: From sky-high aerial action and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speed to raucous team celebrations and the solitary, still seconds in between.

But while women were responsible for many of the most memorable moments from the Beijing Games, most of their achievements – as well as their disappointments – were documented by men.

The Beijing Winter Games were technically the most “gender equal” in history, with women representing 45 percent of all athletes, but the media covering the Olympics were far less gender balanced. The International Olympic Committee helped highlight this disparity when the organization released the final number of validated media accreditations following the Closing Ceremony.

In Beijing, 9,388 individuals received media credentials. That total includes three categories: press organizations (1,952); rights-holding broadcasters (3,607); and host-broadcaster representatives (3,829).

The IOC released a gender breakdown for the first category, which includes print reporters and photographers. Of the 1,952 media members in Beijing, just 23 percent – 443 individuals – were women. Within that group, women photographers were the least represented, percentage-wise: Of the 603 photographers accredited at the Games, only 13 percent – 80 individuals – were women.

Snowboard - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 6
Photographers at the 2022 Winter Olympics document the women’s snowboard halfpipe podium ceremony featuring gold medalist Chloe Kim (USA), silver medalist Queralt Castellet (ESP) and bronze medalist Tomita Sena (JPN). Of the 603 photographers accredited at the 2022 Winter Olympics, only 13 percent were women. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Press accreditation numbers by gender at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

E (Journalist) 290 801 1,091 27% 73%
EP (Photographer) 80 523 603 13% 87%
ET (Technician) 16 81 97 16% 84%
EC (MPC support staff) 6 13 19 32% 68%
ENR (Non-rights-holding broadcaster) 51 91 142 36% 64%
TOTAL 443 1,509 1,952 23% 77%

“I think it’s jarring to see the numbers in print because my impression, honestly, when I was there is that the numbers were improving,” said Getty Images photographer Maddie Meyer, whose resume includes four Olympic Games, 10 FIFA World Cups (women and men) and the Super Bowl.

Meyer, a 2014 Ohio University grad and Boston resident, was stationed in “Z-Zone” in Beijing, formally known as the Zhangjiakou Zone, which hosted Nordic skiing events, as well as the bulk of freestyle skiing and snowboarding events. She was one of 11 Getty photographers in the zone, three of whom were women. Overall, Getty Images had 61 representatives in Beijing — staff included photographers, editors, editorial operations, product and technology staff — with 13 being women (21 percent).

“[While] it’s not 50/50, I thought, ’Oh this is great, I’ve got two girlfriends up here with me. This is awesome.’ But I did notice when, for example, I covered Shaun White‘s last run and hanging out in the scrum near the mixed zone, looking around and I do notice, of course, women are still a minority there.”

Shaun White's reaction following finishing fourth at the men's snowboard halfpipe competition is among Getty Images' photographer Maddie Meyer's favorites from Beijing.
Shaun White’s reaction following his fourth-place finish in the men’s snowboard halfpipe competition is among Getty Images’ photographer Maddie Meyer’s favorites from Beijing. (Photo by Maddie Meyers/Getty Images) 

At major sporting events in the U.S., Meyer said she can easily see female photographers are still the minority, yet she remembers a different picture while in college, where she says women made up the majority of her fellow visual communications students. While that makes her hopeful that growing gender equality in her profession is not a “supply-chain issue,” Meyer says it remains a challenge to get women photographers game-ready for pressure-packed sports competitions.

“How do we make sure they’re coming up and getting opportunities at the highest level,” said Meyer. “Because that’s another thing: We’re covering the Olympic Games. That’s the pinnacle of sport photography, and this is not the time to give somebody a first chance or first try – when it’s a really high-pressure situation.

“So how do you get new photographers, men or women, into a position where they’re covering these really high-demand, high-pressure sports?”

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While Getty has addressed that question with targeted internship programs and mentorships, part of the answer lies in Meyer herself. As the first woman to earn the Getty Images’ Sports Internship in 2013, her living, breathing, trailblazing path inspired fellow colleague and OU alum Sarah Stier, who is here to confirm: Representation matters.

“When I saw that Maddie – that her full-time job was being a sports photographer – that’s what I wanted to do, and so I had Maddie to look up to,” said Stier, who worked the 2022 Winter Games as an Alpine photo editor as well as a photographer in the Beijing Zone, which primarily hosted the Olympic ice sports. “They always say it, but it helps when you have people to look up to, and I think that’s the key and that’s how we’re going to (bring more women into the profession).”

Maddie Meyer and Sarah Stier in the field at the Beijing Olympics. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
Photographers Maddie Meyer and Sarah Stier in the field at the Beijing Olympics. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)

Stier also worked the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, where the media accreditation numbers provided by the IOC reflected a similar breakdown percentage-wise by gender. The press corps totaled 4,187 (down by approximately 1,800 from “normal” Summer Games numbers), with 20 percent of the total credentials going to women, and just 12 percent of the 1,042 photographer credentials were held by women.

Bringing a woman’s perspective to the competition field

When it comes to documenting the action, Meyer and Stier bring a similar approach to their craft, intent on capturing the action as they see it, no matter the subject. But both women also have embraced their position among the minority, seeing it as an opportunity to elevate their points of view as well as to champion the same dynamic coverage of female athletes and women’s sports.

“While there are disadvantages to being a woman in this male-dominated field, I will say that I do think when I am covering female athletes, I think they do feel more comfort around me and so maybe in that moment that’s my advantage,” said Stier.

In particular, Stier said she seized those advantages last year while covering the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association’s history-making game hosted at Madison Square Garden, as part of the 2021 Dream Gap Tour.

“As I was shooting, I was trying to challenge myself to think beyond the the photos and storylines that we always see in women’s sports,” she said, referring to the stereotypical images of ponytails and painted fingernails.

“What can I shoot beyond that? Because when we photograph men’s reactions after they score a goal or something, they’re these almost guttural screams, you know? It’s intense – and I want to make sure that when I photograph female athletes, I’m photographing them in the exact same way that I photograph male athletes.

“That’s going to be hard for some people to adjust to because women athletes don’t always look pretty when they’re scoring.”

Jessie Diggins of Team United States celebrates winning silver during the Women's Cross-Country Skiing 30k Mass Start.
Team USA’s Jessie Diggins celebrates winning silver during the women’s cross-country skiing 30k mass start freestyle on Day 16 of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Meyer noted that she, too, considers it her responsibility to provide the same gritty coverage for women’s sports as she does for men.

“I need to be sure that I’m showing the women in their peak action and getting dirty and sliding on the turf and things like that, so that – ultimately it’s a little bit out of my hands – but I make such an effort to be able to provide these tough, peak-action moments.”

But Meyer has found a little magic in differences between on-field celebrations at women’s events vs. men’s: “Often (women) give great reaction to each other. A lot of men will celebrate to the cameras or by themselves, and women tend to come together and celebrate with their teams, so there are more pictures there, and often I find that more interesting.”

But at the end of day, it’s respect for their subjects that rules the work.

“I always try and put myself in the (place) of whatever athlete I’m photographing, man or woman, and I know something that’s true for all of them is they’ve worked really hard to get to this point,” said Meyer.

“They have dedicated likely their entire lives to getting here, and I want the athlete to be shown in a good light, in a respectful light, and to honor the work that they’ve done to get to that moment.”

What is being done to support female sports photographers?

Last year, the IOC released an extensive “Gender Equality and Inclusion Report” as well as detailed “Portrayal Guidelines,” both of which encourage gender equality among content creators, storytellers and news organizations. These recommendations even go so far as to encourage sports organizations to offer incentives – like additional accreditations – to media outlets to assign female staff to cover their athletes or events.

In an email to On Her Turf, IOC Media Relations also confirmed that the IOC Press Committee has a working group on gender equality that is looking at “various initiatives including, amongst others, allocating a small quota of press accreditation to females in some parts of the world, plus ensuring equal gender representation – and geographic representation – in the Young Reporter Programme.”

“Images from the Olympic Games are seen by billions of people around the world, creating icons and role models for women and girls – proving that ‘if she believes it, she can be it,'” wrote the IOC in a report in Tuesday detailing its gender parity initiatives in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Stier recognizes that a shift toward 50-50 representation behind the camera won’t change overnight, but she finds the prospect motivating.

Dutch speed skater Irene Schouten's reaction after winning the gold medal in the Women's Mass Start Final was among Getty photographer's Sarah Stier favorite images from Beijing.
Dutch speed skater Irene Schouten‘s reaction after winning the gold medal in the Women’s Mass Start Final was among Getty Images photographer’s Sarah Stier favorites from Beijing. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

“I think that’s the challenge and the motivator for getting women to work in sports,” she said. “What we can do now is to recognize young women who want to be sports photographers early and give them the courage and confidence to really own whatever market they’re in, (and also) give them that courage and confidence by valuing their work over that idea of, ‘We’re going to value you because you’re a woman.’

“That’s where we get the change.”

Meyer said she sees a time in the future where she arrives at an Olympic Games and can gather with a veteran group of women photographers and share the same camaraderie that she sees her male counterparts enjoying.

“I’m working generally around a lot of men who have had this group and have known each other for decades,” said Meyer. “And I know that’ll be me one day, with all the women I’ve (worked alongside).

“Hopefully, I’ll know them for decades, and I’ll be 50 or 60 years old hanging out with them wherever the Olympics are.”

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Diana Flores looks to break down gender barriers with turn as AFC offensive coordinator in 2023 Pro Bowl

Courtesy Diana Flores

Diana Flores admits she was surprised when she became a viral sensation last spring, courtesy of a 15-second slow-motion clip showcasing her evasive maneuvers and fancy footwork while leaving at least three defenders in the dirt during Mexico’s 2022 national collegiate flag football championship.

“I never expected someone to record that moment,” said Mexico City native Flores, who led her team – the Monterrey Tech Borregos – to their third consecutive national title as a senior last May. “I was just having fun. I was just playing the game I love and then days later to see that it was viral on the internet — it was crazy. But at the same time, it was exciting because I remember when I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of flag football role models to follow. So now, for me to be a role model for many boys and girls that play my sport is something that really makes me happy and proud and also motivates me to keep getting better.”

Flores, who led the Mexico Women’s National Flag Football Team to a gold medal at the 2022 World Games, will have the chance to promote her sport on one of the world’s biggest stages this weekend when she serves as the AFC offensive coordinator for the NFL’s 2023 Pro Bowl Games, featuring the first-ever AFC vs. NFC Flag football games on Sunday in Las Vegas.

Organized in partnership with RCX Sports, the NFL’s flag football operating partner, and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), Sunday’s Pro Bowl event will feature three 7-on-7 AFC vs. NFC flag games. Each game will be 20 minutes in length (two halves) and played on a 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones. Flores will be joined by Peyton Manning as the AFC head coach and Ray Lewis as defensive coordinator. On the NFC side, U.S. Women’s National Flag Football team quarterback Vanita Krouch will serve as offensive coordinator, with Eli Manning as NFC head coach and DeMarcus Ware as defensive coordinator.

“I think that this has been one of the best things in my life,” she recently told On Her Turf about her Pro Bowl appointment. “It is like a dream. I mean, I grew up watching football, watching the NFL, playing flag football. And now to be able to be part of all of this — it is bigger than my biggest dreams.”

Flores’ football dreams began as when she was just 8 years old. Her father — who played quarterback for the perennial football powerhouse Monterrey Tech program — took her to a practice and she fell in love with the sport. But as the time there were no teams for girls her age, so she played with girls twice her age and used it to her advantage, focusing on her own abilities and sharpening her skills. By age 14 she was playing NFL Flag in Mexico, where she was the only girl in the league, and at 15 she started playing NFL Flag in the U.S, where she finally played on an all-girls team.

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“I remember when I started playing, I used to receive a lot of like comments, directly and indirectly from other people, like, ‘Why do you play that sport? That’s not a girls’ sport, that sport is for boys, you’re get injured, you’re going to get hurt, don’t play with boys, that’s too rude.’ And the list keeps going. But my mom and dad were so supportive. They always encouraged me not to listen to anybody, to just follow my passion.

“And I think thanks to them, I’ve always had this mentality that gender doesn’t matter. It just matters how passionate you are about your dreams, how hard you work for what you want to achieve. And that you will always demonstrate what you’re made for, depending on the hard work you do. So, I’ve lived through that [negativity], I have experienced that. And I think that it has been one of my biggest blessings to be able to experience — for myself — what sport can do and how gender barriers get broken when you follow your dreams and you connect with other people through your passion.”

At just 16 years old, Flores made Mexico’s national team, playing in the first of four Flag Football World Championships – so far. Last summer at the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, the 24-year-old Flores led Mexico to a 6-0 record, which included two wins over the U.S. women, who took silver. In the gold medal game against the United States, she completed 20 of 28 pass attempts for 210 yards and four touchdowns in Mexico’s 39-6 victory. She finished the tournament with 23 touchdown passes, the third-most among women’s teams, and she was the only starting quarterback to beat USA’s star QB, Krouch, who is 19-1 in international tournament play.

All that international experience so early in her career has given Flores a wise-beyond-her-years approach to playing flag football, a sport where she was frequently the only female player on the field and often the only Latin American as well.

“When I first came to the U.S., it was a little shocking to notice that I was probably the only Latin American girl playing,” she recalls. “But I think that it was easy for me because I got all the support from my coaches and my teammates. And since a young age, I think that I started to realize that sometimes what you do is for something bigger than yourself. That’s why you have to always give your best, in any situation. Even at that young age, I understood that I was representing more than myself on the field, I was representing Latin American people, Latin American girls in a sport that [many people thought] was meant to be for boys.”

RELATED: NFL still pushing for Olympic flag football with a chance ahead

One door Flores hopes to help open is the one leading to the Olympics. Flag football is on the short list being considered for inclusion in Los Angeles in 2028 Los Angeles. As an ambassador for flag football for the NFL and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), she’s participated in talks with the International Olympic Committee, and just last month she was joined by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden in Mexico City where they joined forced to promote women’s empowerment and inclusion.

“I think for me, that experience is one of my top three,” she said of spending time with Biden. “I call them gifts from life, something that you didn’t expect it to happen, and somehow, one day, you’re right there in front of the First Lady. I admire her for what she does for boys and girls, for empowering woman and giving opportunities for everybody to achieve their dreams. So it was truly an honor to meet her, and also to be able to keep impacting my sport, not only on the field, but [off] the field, and have the opportunity keep inspiring others and keep impacting the world.”

As for what she hopes fans at the Pro Bowl and viewers at home take away from Sunday’s flag football showcase, Flores hopes they’ll see the characteristics that made her fall in love with flag in the first place: creativity, speed, agility, teamwork, passion and a lot of heart.

“I hope to show to all little girls and women that dreams come true, that nothing is impossible, to keep inspiring and opening opportunities and doors for women in sports, especially in the world of the NFL and football and flag football,” she says. “We’re going to make history, and I am so proud and happy for that. I’m really hoping that it is just the first step, not only for me, but for all the women that are coming after me.”

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Flag football star Vanita Krouch ‘living the dream’ ahead of NFL Pro Bowl debut as NFC coordinator


When Vanita Krouch got the news that she was named NFC offensive coordinator for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games, featuring the first-ever AFC vs. NFC Flag football games on Sunday, the U.S. Women’s National Flag Football team quarterback admits her jaw nearly hit the ground.

And then she realized something even more profound.

“For the longest time, thinking about the moment, everything, you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is a dream come true. Is this really happening?’” said the 42-year-old Krouch, known as the “Tom Brady of flag football” with a 19-1 record as USA’s starting quarterback in international tournaments since 2018.

“But then I started thinking to myself: You know what? None of us grew up thinking of this as a dream to obtain. So really, it’s kind of reversed where I’m living a dream. I get to be a pioneer in this growth of flag football for all and inclusion for all, youth and adults, [women and men]. It’s such an inclusive sport, and I get to be a part of this growth and still actively play. It’s exciting. I’m literally living the dream. I’m very much like, ‘Guys, don’t pinch me. Let me keep sleeping.’”

Organized in partnership with RCX Sports, the NFL’s flag football operating partner, and the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), Sunday’s Pro Bowl event will feature three 7-on-7 AFC vs. NFC flag games. Each game will be 20 minutes in length (two halves) and played on a 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones. Krouch will be joined by Eli Manning as NFC head coach and DeMarcus Ware as NFC defensive coordinator. On the AFC side, Mexico Women’s National Flag Football quarterback Diana Flores will serve as offensive coordinator, with Peyton Manning as head coach and Ray Lewis as defensive coordinator.

But Krouch’s journey to the Pro Bowl stage began under the unlikeliest of circumstances and was inspired by her own family odyssey, which began in Cambodia during the horrific regime of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. Krouch’s mother, Phonnary Krouch, fled the country with three young sons in tow, running by night and hiding by day to escape, finding safety initially at a refugee camp in the Philippines. That’s where she welcomed Vanita, in September 1980, and two months later the family made its way to the United States. Krouch’s father exited the picture upon their arrival in America, leaving Phonnary to raise four children alone.

“In a nutshell, my mom is an amazing woman,” said Krouch, who first found sports via an elementary school flyer advertising youth soccer in Carrollton, Texas. “On the journey, she had a lot of trials, tribulations, … and after our dad left us, it was just mom and four kids in this little one-bedroom apartment. So, it was a challenge. I’m just so amazed by her strength and will to never give up.”

She also credits her mom for standing up to then-stereotypical notions that Asian girls should not play sports.

“I’m just thankful, honestly, that my mom allowed me to break the Asian culture barriers of a woman playing sports because that’s not easy,” she said. “She faced a lot of backlash from the community. But she said, ‘Hey, my child’s making good grades. She’s healthy, she’s good. She’s staying off the streets. I don’t see a problem.’ And she just let me do it. I was just lucky to have a mom that let me spread my wings.”

Krouch also had a few mentors along the way. Her elementary school PE teacher, Toni Neibes, stepped in to pay for those initial soccer fees and continued her support as Krouch transitioned to basketball in the fourth grade. She fell in love with the sport and excelled at it as well, eventually earning a full scholarship to play college basketball at Southern Methodist University. She wears the No. 4 to this day in honor of Niebes, who wore the same number as a young athlete. She also credits her fourth-grade teacher, Judy Ward, as having a lasting impact after the teacher made a habit out of showing up for her youth basketball games.

She pays tribute to them both through her clothing line, 4Ward Apparel, which features ever-changing collections emblazoned with relevant slogans encouraging female empowerment, inclusion and her personal mantra of “paying it forward” – something she does with the line itself. Each month, Krouch donates a portion of the sales to individuals, families or organizations in need.

After graduating SMU in 2003, Krouch continued to play basketball in semi-pro and adult leagues, but she was still searching for something to satisfy her competitive drive. She and a former college teammate stumbled on flag football during a Google search for local Dallas-area activities, and the rest – as they say – is history.

“It was like I drank the Kool Aid and I never looked back,” she says of her start in flag in 2006. “It’s just like every game, every play is a new challenge, and it’s addictive for a competitor, so I just fell in love with flag. I actually think I’m way better at flag than I was at basketball.”

She moved into the quarterback position through some sly maneuvering by current USA Women’s Flag Football head coach Chris Lankford. They were playing together in a local tournament when he “tricked” her into the QB position, despite Krouch knowing “zero football language.”

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“One day I showed up for a tournament and I asked, ‘All right, guys, who’s our quarterback?’ And he says, ‘We’re looking at her,’” she remembers. They kept the plays simple, and her team made it to the playoffs that season. Krouch has been a QB ever since.

Krouch joined the national team in 2016 and was inducted into the National Flag and Touch Football Hall Fame that same year. Last year at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, a 41-year-old Krouch set a new mark as the oldest Flag football player, man or woman, in the games, and she ranked second among women with 25 touchdown passes at the tournament where USA won silver.

She aims to bring that expertise to the field at the Pro Bowl games, where she’s looking forward to seeing NFL players take on the flag football style type of plays. “Flag is a very finesse, quick game, a lot of footwork, and these guys can’t grab or hold, no downfield contact or downfield block or anything off the line,” she explains. “So it’s going to be exciting just to see skill for skill, footwork for footwork, defense to offense, and to see flag football language with those type of elite athletes.”

As for the biggest challenge, Krouch believes it will be crafting a concise playbook and language that puts everyone on the same page. “A challenge for me is getting a coach’s mindset,” she adds, “I have to actually come up with plays ahead of time and I don’t usually have premeditated plays in my head. I just read it so for me to tell Kirk Cousins or Geno Smith [what to do], it will be different, you know?”

But beyond the Pro Bowl, Krouch is excited that flag is being considered for inclusion as an exhibition sport in the 2028 Summer Olympics. While she’s keeping a hopeful eye on that development, she’s also working to shape the next generation of potential athletes as a physical education teacher at La Villita Elementary in Irving, Texas.

RELATED: NFL still pushing for Olympic flag football with a chance ahead

“It’s an honor to be a role model – for other youth flag football players, for my students, both boys and girls,” says Krouch. “Then at my campus and in my community, it’s amazing to be able to break the barrier of like, ‘Asian women can’t do this.’ And then to be at my age, still doing this, I feel very lucky and blessed. …I think I still got some years in me.”

As for what she hopes viewers and fans walk away with after watching the Pro Bowl flag games this weekend, Krouch feels confident folks will walk away enlightened by the show.

“I just hope that they have fun with it,” says Krouch. “And for those who don’t know flag to be like, ‘Wow, that’s really amazing. Maybe that’s something I really can get my son or daughter into at a young age.’ So I just hope that they see that the sport is real – it’s not just something we play at recess. It’s a real thing now. I think they’ll see that the world loves it, the world can play it and is playing it.”

Be sure to check back with On Her Turf later this week when we catch up with AFC coordinator and Mexico Women’s National Flag Football Team quarterback Diana Flores.  

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