HomeLearning CenterLeveraging the Caitlin Clark Effect for Women and Allies

Leveraging the Caitlin Clark Effect for Women and Allies

Origina;ly published by Julie Kratz for Forbes

Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink and Kamilla Cardoso were respectively the top three picks in 2024’s Women’s National Basketball Association draft. This year, women’s college basketball witnessed record viewership, outpacing the men’s final for the first time.

Why? Many have thanked the Caitlin Clark Effect, dubbed by the Des Moines Register to describe the drastic increase in game ticket sales and revenue for the University of Iowa and the other universities she travels to. Clark’s Iowa women’s team generated approximately $82.5 million in additional revenue for the community this season.

When Women are Empowered, We All Benefit

Studies show that when women advance in leadership roles, they tend to give back to the communities they belong to. They share resources, empower other marginalized groups and lift their communities, often because they know the challenges they have personally faced and want to uplift others around them.

According to Melinda French Gates’ research, “when women can fully participate in economies, it increases financial stability for their households, helps families recover more quickly from shocks and supports a country’s resilience.” McKinsey’s 2023 diversity report found that women’s representation in leadership increases business performance by 39%.

Yet, despite these known facts, there remain stark challenges for women in society today, on the court, at work and in leadership roles. The three primary challenges for women and their allies are:

  1. The Tug of War (or Perceived Infighting Between Women)
  2. Pay Equity (vs Other Genders)
  3. Fewer Resources (to Develop and Advance)

The Tug of War (or Perceived Infighting Between Women)

Originally coined by Joan C. Williams, the tug of war refers to the concept of perceived infighting between women, woven through history and entrenched stereotypes. This isn’t just a clash of personalities; it’s a reflection of deeply ingrained societal norms that pit women against each other in a relentless quest for validation within patriarchal structures. Whether it’s in the boardroom or the local community, and often in the news cycle, we see the subtle interplay between solidarity and competition as women navigate this delicate balance.

Clark was often pitted against other women in the news cycle, trying to divide rather than unite women performing at an elite level. As a society, it’s vital to recognize the true power of shared sisterhood across intersectional identities. By reframing the conversation and fostering a culture of support and celebration, we can unravel the knots of rivalry and embrace the collective strength that lies in unity among women. It’s time to rewrite the script and redefine success on our own terms.

Pay Equity (vs Other Genders)

Women in sports and in corporate roles are still paid less than other genders. The average WNBA player made $113,295 at the start of the 2023 season, which often requires additional endorsements and travel offseason, all to still not even come close to the average pay of a NBA athlete, $9.7 million. Despite Clark’s unprecedented success, she is projected to make $338,000 for her four-year contract. Most WNBA players take international off-season positions and have to seek out additional endorsement deals to be able to support themselves and their families. Because the average tenure for a professional basketball athlete is only 4.8 years, there is a limited window to earn.

True progress requires us to broaden our perspective and recognize the disparities faced by individuals of all genders. Pay equity isn’t solely about closing the wage gap between men and women; it’s about dismantling the systemic barriers that hinder fair compensation for everyone, regardless of their gender identity.

By centering the discussion on inclusivity and intersectionality, we can amplify the voices of those marginalized by existing structures and advocate for policies that ensure equitable pay for all. It’s time to challenge the status quo and strive towards a future where every individual receives the recognition and compensation they deserve, irrespective of gender.

Fewer Resources (to Develop and Advance)

In the pursuit of professional growth and advancement, the availability of resources plays a pivotal role, yet it’s crucial to acknowledge that not everyone has equal access to these opportunities. Women’s basketball players have long argued for equal workout equipment, travel accommodations and support on and off the court. The same inequitable access is true for marginalized communities. The path to success is hindered by systemic barriers that limit access to essential resources such as mentorship, education and career development programs.

This lack of equitable support perpetuates a cycle of inequality, where certain groups are left behind while others thrive. To truly foster inclusivity and create pathways for advancement, we must address these disparities head-on and invest in initiatives that provide equitable access to resources for all. By leveling the playing field and empowering individuals with the tools they need to succeed, we can create a more just and equitable future where talent knows no boundaries.

This is an exciting time for women and their allies. With the new and much overdue attention to women’s basketball, there is an opportunity for women and their allies to leverage this moment for long-lasting change. The Caitlin Clark Effect is real. Lifting women lifts us all up.

Back to News