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Women underrepresented in athletic department leadership (USA)

In a press conference on April 4, Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame’s head women’s basketball coach, said, “We don’t have enough visible women leaders. We don’t have enough women in power.” A video of the interview was published on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s basketball Twitter account. The interview question was prompted by her statement “to never hire another male coach for her staff.”

Without question, the discrepancy of women in leadership positions within all areas of sports is immense. Within the Northwest Conference (NWC), a considerably liberal area of the United States, four of the nine athletic directors identify as women. At the University of Puget Sound, only two of the head women’s sports — lacrosse and softball — are coached by women.

Puget Sound athletic director Amy Hackett described the small pool of women to choose from when hiring. “It should always be part of the conversation. Is it an easy process to create more balance? … No, for a number of reasons. But athletic directors are always looking for a stronger gender representation among staff,” Hackett said.

In the last 20 years, the salary change in women’s sports has increased competition in the field of coaching women’s sports. After this salary change, men recognized the financial benefit and started shifting their attention towards women’s and men’s sports.

Emery Bradlina, a senior cross country and track and field athlete, is coached by a man in both her sports. She reflected on McGraw’s comments regarding critical gender equity in athletic positions of power.

“I think a key point that she makes is that the discourse of the ideal, contemporary, gender equitable athletic arena pointing to progress through Title IX, or the ‘first female governor,’ and all the other examples she gives, is inherently at odds with the broader ideological discourses that socialize the predetermined gender roles she mentions,” Bradlina said.

Bradlina is referring to McGraw’s statement that women in power need to become a societal norm rather than a surprise.

Hackett recognizes the immense steps society has taken towards growing “the industry of women’s coaches.”

“The NCAA and other organizations have been trying to grow the market,” Hackett said.

 

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