LinkedIN: Men Are Better Networkers

Throughout the ages women and men have battled over the TV remote, the duvet and the distribution of household chores. Now thanks to a new study out from LinkedIn, there's another arena for gender combat -- social networking.

The professional social networking site analyzed its accumulated data on how women and men network, releasing a "Battle of the Sexes" report on which gender is savvier on the site. The news wasn't great for women overall with LinkedIn finding that "globally and in the U.S. men are savvier online professional networkers than women."

But not all was lost for the ladies as the study also examined the data for specific industries and companies -- with surprising results. To determine which gender dominated each, LinkedIn created a ratio of the percentage of links in an industry made by each gender to the percentage of members of that gender. So if women represent 45 percent of folks in an industry but make up 70 percent of connections, that industry was dubbed "female savvy." Which industries came out as the most female savvy?

  1. Alternative dispute resolution
  2. Tobacco
  3. Alternative medicine
  4. Ranching
  5. International trade and development
Compare this to the industries that were male savvy:
  1. Medical practice
  2. Hospital & health care
  3. Cosmetics
  4. Law enforcement
  5. Capital markets
When it came to specific companies, women were out-networking men at Best Buy, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, while men were more savvy at Walmart, Kaiser Permanente, and Mary Kay.
Women are the top networkers in uber-macho ranching? Men at female-dominated Mary Kay? If you're reaction was "wait, what?" you're not alone. "That was exactly our reaction when we saw the initial results for our latest data insights," noted the LinkedIn number crunchers themselves.

So what's going on here? Fast Company's hypothesis is that under-represented genders compensate for their scarcity by increased networking in order to break in. When they ran this theory by a LinkedIn spokesperson Krista Canfield she agreed it was a possibility: "It could be because that industry is dominated by females; as a male, to break into that industry, you need to be a strong networker, you're swimming upstream, but that's not something data can tell us for sure."

That's not the only limitations of the data. The analysis offered no insights on how LinkedIn usage varied by age, seniority or experience, for example. And these things could matter. Several studies have shown that social network usage in general is slowly tilting towards the female and it also seems to be true that women use these sites differently than men. They're slower to take up new technology but appear to value their online communities more highly, perhaps because women view networking, whether online of off, as more of a relationship building exercise than a cut and dried transaction.

All of which makes you wonder whether women are simply taking longer to build stronger connections online, whether they're getting more or less out of the more personal connections they're building and ultimately whether they'll be better able than men to put social media to work for them professionally in the long run. Hopefully, LinkedIn will keep an eye on the numbers and let us know.

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user Patrick de Laive, CC 2.0)