Summary of How Successful Women Manage their Networks

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The World Economic Forum estimates that, at the current rate of progress, it will take 217 years for companies to close the gender gap. And even in companies that have achieved a good deal of gender equality, the way women network may make all the difference to their individual success. Connected Commons researchers Inga Carboni, Rob Cross, Aaron Page and Andrew Parker poured through 15 years of research collected from 30 organizations and conducted extensive interviews to show that getting to know and work with people across gender and other divides is the most effective way to reduce bias.

About the Authors

Connected Commons pioneers research into the impact and importance of organizational networks. Inga Carboni is an associate professor in Organizational Behavior at the College of William & Mary. Rob Cross is Chief Research Scientist for Connected Commons and the Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College. Aaron Page is a research associate at the University of Exeter Business School, where professor Andrew Parker directs the Exeter Centre for Social Networks.



In organizations with gender parity, forces other than gender bias influence how people form networks.

Organizational networks are traditionally the main mechanism men use for career success. Women are often shut out of these coalitions. This may be one manifestation of “implicit bias,” the kind of unconscious stereotypes that cause people to prefer to connect with those who look most like them.

Fortune 500 companies spend more than $4 billion in implicit bias training, but studies show that companies that mandate diversity training end up less diverse. In firms with roughly equal numbers of men and women, other influences matter more than gender. People form relationships based on similarities and – if they’re in the minority – they tend to cluster by gender. When people who work together get to know one another other, the basis for their affinity changes: They grow into having a shared viewpoint.

Important drivers help women build more effective, “boundary-spanning” networks.

The number of people in your network doesn’t matter as much as its “structural diversity.” While leaders often have close-knit networks...

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