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Women Need a Different Kind of Network Than Men

Professional networks are critical to career success. New research compares those of high-achieving men and women and finds an importance difference:

  • Men in the top quartile of centrality did the best. (not just how many direct contacts each had but whether those contacts were in touch with lots of other people, providing second-degree connectedness to a wider group). These men landed jobs with 1.5 times as much authority and pay.

  • For women, it’s more nuanced. The most successful also had a high degree of centrality, but they needed something else: an inner circle of female contacts. Women in the top quartile of centrality who had a female dominated inner circle found jobs that were 2.5 times as high in authority and pay than those who lacked the combination.

Key takeaways:

  1. Women should favour quality over quantity (seeking people with multiple networks);

  2. Embrace randomness (to avoid associating only with people like themselves);

  3. Guard against building an inner circle that is too interconnected.


About the research: “A Network’s Gender Composition and Communication Pattern Predict Women’s Leadership Success” by Yang Yang, Nitesh V. Chawla, and Brian Uzzi (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019).

Read more in the July-August 2019 Harvard Business Review.


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