The Real Gender Gap Is in Your Network

Last Updated May 21, 2010 12:48 PM EDT

What blocks women from equal representation in senior management? Recent research suggests that the barrier is less a glass ceiling than a moat around certain networking opportunities.

Despite decades of law and corporate policy, women are still underrepresented in senior positions compared with their male colleagues.

It's not for a lack of career-development and job-search savvy among professional women, experts told Kevin Fogarty in a story for TheLadders titled "Why Men Have Stronger Professional Networks Than Women." The real culprit is a statistical tendency for women and men to network with members of their own sex. Since men have historically been in more influential positions, male networks are often more powerful.

"Women have tended to be better connected overall, but they and many of their female contacts tend to work in more female-dominated jobs," sociologist William Bielby, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Fogarty. "So their networks may be wider, but don't reach to as high a level as men, who tend to be better connected, particularly in getting professional news, to more high-status people."

Bottom line: Women who understand these networking tangles can take better steps to address them, both by strengthening their personal pitches and extending their networks to span the gender gap.

  • Matthew TheLadders

    Matthew Rothenberg is editor-in-chief for TheLadders, the world's leading online service catering exclusively to the $100K+ job market. In addition to traditional job search services, also provides a host of specialized career development resources. Previously he worked at Ziff Davis Media, ZDNet, CNET, and Hachette Filipacchi.