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McGraw calls for gender equality, makes waves across nation

| Friday, April 5, 2019

Notre Dame head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw is making headlines across the nation after calling for gender equality Thursday in a press conference at the Final Four in Tampa, Florida.

“I’m getting tired of the novelty of ‘the first female governor of this state,’ ‘the first female African American mayor of this city,’” McGraw said at the conference. “When is it going to become the norm instead of the exception?”

McGraw launched into the speech after a reporter asked her about comments she previously made about not hiring another man for her coaching staff.

“Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in 1967 and it still hasn’t passed?” McGraw said. “We need 38 states to agree that discrimination on the basis of sex is unconstitutional.

“ … How are these young women looking up and seeing someone just like them preparing them for the future? We don’t have enough female role models, we don’t have enough visible female leaders, we don’t have enough women in power.”

McGraw is in Tampa for her ninth Final Four as head coach of Notre Dame women’s basketball. The Irish will take on the UConn Huskies on Friday at 9 p.m. for a chance to play in the NCAA national championship.

Though the press conference began as a conversation about the upcoming semifinal, McGraw’s comments pivoted the discussion to the subject of female leaders in sports and positions of power.

“All these millions of girls that play sports across the country, they could come out every day and we’re teaching them great things about life skills,” McGraw said. “But wouldn’t it be great to teach them to watch how women lead?

“Girls are socialized to know when they come out gender roles are already set. Men run the world. Men have the power. Men make the decisions. It’s always the man that is the stronger one. And when these girls are [growing up], who are they looking up to, to tell them that that’s not the way it has to be?”

McGraw commented on the lack of female representation in leadership positions beyond sports, as well, using the United States Senate, the House of Representatives and Fortune 500 companies as examples.

“When you look at men’s basketball, and 99% of the jobs go to men, why shouldn’t 100 or 99% of the jobs in women’s basketball go to women?” McGraw said. “Maybe it’s because we only have 10% women athletic directors in Division I. People hire people who look like them — and that’s the problem.”

Her comments quickly went viral, prompting responses from public figures like former President Barack Obama, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and sports broadcasters such as ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.

“A voice everybody should hear,” Obama tweeted in response to the NCAA women’s basketball posting of the video.

Buttigieg, a potential contender in the 2020 presidential election, tweeted a similar sentiment.

“A powerful statement from a leader I admire,” Buttigieg said.

Former NBA player Tracy McGrady weighed in on Nichols’ ESPN show “The Jump.”

“She dropped the mic on that one — she hit the nail on the head right there,” McGrady said.

The Irish will face the Huskies in the NCAA semifinal Friday at 9 p.m. The winner will advance to the NCAA women’s basketball championship, which is scheduled to take place Sunday.

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