top of page

Beyond the Court: What Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese Teach Us About Workplace Bias.

Updated: Apr 15

When was the last time you heard a story about a coworker and took it at face value without considering the underlying biases that might shape such narratives?

It's easy to get caught up in the workplace grapevine, but have you ever stopped to think about how bias shapes the stories that circulate about our women colleagues in particular?

During 2023 and 2024's March Madness, the spotlight isn't just on college basketball players' talent and competitive sportsmanship; it also inadvertently shines on the undercurrents of bias and comparative narratives that pervade sports and our workplaces. Two stellar young women athletes, Caitlin Clark, and Angel Reese, find themselves at the center of discussions not just for their unparalleled skills on the court but for how their similar characteristics are perceived through a biased lens of race.

With her competitiveness and leadership on the court, Caitlin is often celebrated, and her actions are seen as the epitome of athleticism and passion. Angel, with similar traits and an equally impressive track record, faces a different narrative—her intensity is sometimes critiqued, and her assertiveness is misconstrued. This disparity isn't just about sports; it's reflective of a broader societal issue where the same qualities are interpreted differently based on the individual's race, particularly between Black and White women.

This biased lens extends into the professional arena, where women are often compared and judged not on their competencies but through a narrative steeped in stereotypes and prejudices. Such narratives undermine individual achievements and perpetuate a culture where the bias overshadows a woman's professional demeanor.

In the workplace, the impact of biases, particularly in the comparative narratives surrounding Black and White women, extends far beyond mere perception—it can critically alter career trajectories. When the same assertiveness is lauded in one woman and criticized in another, it not only skews our understanding of their capabilities but also directly affects their professional advancement. Black women often face harsher scrutiny: their leadership qualities can be misconstrued as aggressiveness, their passionate points of view as combative, and their confidence as non-compliance.

Fueled by misinformation and unchecked narratives, this dynamic strips our workplaces of diverse leadership and diminishes these women's potential contributions and retention. In recognizing and addressing these biases, we must strive not just for fairness but for an environment where all women can aspire to and reach their highest potential without the burden of biased perceptions, skewed expectations, and race-based comparisons of who is better than the other. This bias discourages women from seeking leadership roles, speaking out, or fully engaging in the workplace for fear of being similarly mischaracterized. It's a cycle that not only sidelines talented individuals but also impoverishes our work cultures by forcing women to 'play small.'

As professionals, we must challenge ourselves to recognize these comparative narratives and the language we use in the workplace. When discussing the behavior or performance of women, are we applying a universal standard, or are we, perhaps unconsciously, echoing a biased narrative that undermines and devalues their contributions?

Let's look at the world of women's college basketball—not for sports analysis but to introspect and evolve our understanding of bias. Let's question whether the narrative we use to assess and discuss women's behaviors in professional settings is genuinely ours or if it reflects a more profound societal bias.

Next time you hear someone at work sharing comparison and negative information about a woman's performance or behavior, pause and reflect. Think of Angel Reese or Caitlin Clark—how narratives outside their control shape perceptions of their character, abilities, and likability. Before accepting what you hear and picking a side, ask yourself: is this information based on fact, or could bias influence it? Challenge yourself to validate the stories circulating and consider speaking up to offer a different perspective or ask probing questions that encourage others to think critically about their assumptions. This approach protects colleagues from unfair judgments and contributes to a more equitable and supportive workplace culture.

In challenging these narratives, we foster a more inclusive and equitable workplace and champion the true essence of teamwork and leadership, values that transcend the boundaries of the basketball court and lie at the heart of professional excellence.

As we celebrate the achievements of athletes like Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark, let's commit to critically examining our biases, ensuring that our workplace narratives uplift Women rather than undermine and bait them against one another. It's time to change the game in sports and every arena we step into.

Author: Jeannine K Brown, CEO, Everyday Lead

Jeannine is a people-centered, award-winning leader. She is passionate about workplace psychological safety, the host of the UnToxic Boss Podcast, and the author of "Unstuck and Unstoppable, 5 Proven Strategies to Leverage Your Value, Increase Your Visibility and Gain Recognition to Accelerate Your Career."


bottom of page