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Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw speaks out for women’s equality

The coach, in town for the Final Four, says, “We don’t have enough female role models, we don’t have enough visible women leaders, we don’t have enough women in power.”

TAMPA ― Longtime Notre Dame women’s coach Muffet McGraw, who recently publicly vowed never to hire another male coach, used a national platform ― Thursday’s Women’s Final Four news conference ― to passionately advocate women’s equality.

Here’s what she said, when asked how seriously she takes being a prominent voice in the women’s game now that former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt is gone:

"Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment was issued in 1967 and still hasn’t passed? We need 38 states to agree that discrimination on the basis of sex is unconstitutional. We’ve had a record number of women running for office and winning, and still we have 23 percent of the House and 25 percent of the Senate. I’m getting tired of the novelty of the first female governor of this state, the first female African-American mayor of this city. When is it gonna become the norm instead of the exception?

"How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them, preparing them for the future? We don’t have enough female role models, we don’t have enough visible women leaders, we don’t have enough women in power. 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 men that is the stronger one. And when these girls are coming up, who are they looking up to to tell them that that’s not the way it has to be? And where better to do that than sports? All these millions of girls who play sports across the country, they could come out every day, and we’re teaching them some great things about life skills.

"But wouldn’t it be great if we could teach them to watch how women lead. This is the path for you to take, to get to the point where in this country, we have 50 percent of women in power. We have right now, less than 5% of women are CEOs in Fortune 500 companies.

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

As a follow-up, McGraw was asked why she recently has come out so strongly on this issue:

“Enough. I think women across the country in the last few years have just said, ‘Enough. Time’s up. Time is up, it is our turn.’ If it’s gonna happen, we’ve got to do something about it. You’ve seen women marching in record numbers across the country.

"Women are coming out and being more active politically. I’ve never watched CNN as much in the past two years as I have now, and you’re constantly seeing...women are making 77 cents on the dollar, and that’s just white women. Women of color are lagging way farther behind. And I’m not just talking about white women being coaches, we need more diversity in our game as well.”

Later Thursday, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, a longtime McGraw rival whose club faces Notre Dame in Friday’s national semifinals, was asked if he respects McGraw’s voice on the issue.

“Sure I do,” said Auriemma, who never has had a full-time men’s assistant.

“I think anybody that speaks out in favor of advancing a segment of the community that could benefit from our voice, absolutely. ... There’s a lot of people out there advancing the game, advancing women, and I’m all in favor of it. Any which way we can, no matter what.”

Auriemma went on to say he believes equality can be achieved “without the expense of another.”

“So what are we saying, that at Oregon they weren’t trying to advance women’s basketball for women by hiring Kelly?” Auriemma said in reference to Kelly Graves, a 56-year-old male who has the Ducks in this weekend’s Final Four. “So that was a bad move, they should’ve just found the best available woman?

"I just think they should hire good coaches. And if your preference is only to hire women, that’s fine. If your preference is to have an all-male staff, that’s fine.”

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.