By Lacey Yahnke
“People hire people who look like them,” former Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw explained on Wednesday’s episode of “On Her Turf at the Olympics.”
McGraw joined head coach of the Seattle Storm Noelle Quinn and co-hosts Lindsay Czarniak and Lolo Jones to discuss the current landscape of women in sports leadership positions. (Video of the 18-minute conversation is embedded above.)
Before Title IX was introduced in 1972, women coached more than 90 percent of women’s college teams.
Since then, the number of female college coaches has dropped to about 40 percent. Men recognized the job opportunities and gravitated towards the salary growth of the women’s game.
“When a job opens up, a man’s going to walk right into that office and say, ‘I want that job, I’m going to be great at it,’” McGraw explained. “As women, we [tend to] step back first and [ask] what are the qualifications… If we don’t have one or two [filled], we’re going to say we’re not qualified, [whereas] a man will think, ‘I can learn that.’”
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Quinn, one of three former WNBA players who now serves as a head coach, believes that her 12 years on the court allows her to relate to her players in a way nobody else could.
“[As former players] we understand the grind,” said Quinn. “[We] can talk their language, [we] just understand the day to day that [players] go through, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.”
Given that women of color make up more than 80 percent of the WNBA, Black women deserve to assume leadership in the organizations they built.
And yet, not only is Quinn one of a few former players at the helm, she is also one of two Black women head coaches.
“I have that responsibility as a Black woman in my leadership role to show other young Black women that it is possible to not only play basketball,” Quinn said. “You can lead a team, you can own a team, and you can be fierce in doing that.”
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To increase the number of women in leadership positions, McGraw and Quinn recognize the need for women across every industry to take up more space, especially in roles that are male dominated.
“I’m willing to run that race… and do whatever is necessary so people who come behind me can get whatever they need,” Quinn said. “I’ll fight the good fight so that women can excel right now and in the future.”
During the Olympics, you can also catch up on all of the major storylines in women’s sports by watching “On Her Turf @ The Olympics,” a 30-minute show that will stream for free on Peacock. Hosted by Lindsay Czarniak, MJ Acosta-Ruiz, and Lolo Jones, the show kicks off on Saturday, July 24, and will stream every day of the Games (Monday-Saturday at 7pm ET and Sundays at 6pm ET).