Interventions for improving professional networking for women: Experimental evidence from the IT sector

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Abstract

Professional networks are vital for individuals’ career advancement. Research demonstrates, however, that women are often disadvantaged in their access to such networks. Using a randomized field experiment at an IT conference, we found that women had worse networking outcomes than men. Relative to men, women met 42% fewer new contacts, spent 48% less time talking to them, and added 25% fewer LinkedIn connections. We theorize that in fields where women are underrepresented (e.g., IT) two networking barriers—search and social—differentially affect men and women. We designed and experimentally tested interventions for reducing these barriers. The search intervention was designed to facilitate locating diverse contacts and information. The social intervention was designed to facilitate helping behavior and connecting across social boundaries. Our findings indicate that the search intervention increased the number of new contacts women met by 57%, the time they spent talking with them by 90%, the number of LinkedIn connections they added by 29%, and their odds of changing jobs by a factor of 1.6. The social intervention also increased the time women spent talking to new contacts by 66%. However, the interventions did not improve men’s outcomes. Our results show that simple interventions can help women expand their networks and find jobs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-636
Number of pages44
JournalMIS Quarterly: Management Information Systems
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We appreciate helpful feedback from Sinan Aral, Waverly Ding, Pedro Ferreira, Daniel Hirschman, Erin Leahey, and Fiona Murray, as well as audiences at the 2015 Innovation Growth Lab conference, 2017 Statistical Challenges in Electronic Commerce Research Conference, 2017 Conference on Digital Experimentation, 2017 Workshop on Experimental and Behavioral Economics in Information Systems, 2017 annual meeting of the Academy of Management, 2017 Kauffman Entrepreneurship Scholars Conference, 2017 Strategy Research Forum, Work and Organizations Department seminar at the Carlson School of Management, and Management and Organizations Brown Bag at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. We would like to thank our conference partner for their support. Financial support for this project was provided by the Social Media and Business Analytics Collaborative at the University of Minnesota. All errors are our own.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Gender gaps
  • IT workers
  • Networking
  • Randomized field experiment; career mobility
  • Social network analysis
  • Women in IT

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