We Thought Female Athletes Were Catching Up to Men, but They’re Not

We Thought Female Athletes Were Catching Up to Men, but They’re Not, by Robinson Meyer.

Across dozens of sports, women’s world speed records consistently fall 10 percent short of men’s records.

In a set of swimming and running races, each women’s world record was about 90 percent of the men’s world record.

It turned out someone had already conducted similar — and broader — research on this ratio. The Israeli physicist Ira Hammerman … found that this little-known ratio held across all sports. Running. Swimming. Rowing. Kayaking. Short distance, long distance. Accomplished in teams or attempted alone.

These are such diverse events, requiring different parts of the body and diverse types of talent. And yet they all share something: Their women’s speed world records are all about 90 percent of their men’s speed world records, in both short, middle and long distances. …

The likely reason:

Hammerman looked at hemoglobin counts and the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can use in a minute. …

Men have an average of 13.6 to 17.5 grams of hemoglobin per decalliter in their blood. Women have 12.0 to 15.5 g/dl. The ratio? .88 to .89.

And while maximum oxygen consumption statistics are harder to measure and harder to come by, if you compare them for four accomplished long distance runners of each gender, they average to 72.7 for women and 82.1 for men. 72.7 is about 89 percent of 82.1.

Biology trumps postmodern political science, but in the short term — while society is in the grip of some politically-inspired fantasy — it may not always seem that way. Of course, in politics seeming becomes political reality, which is why they do it.