Study Finds Women With Female-Dominated Inner Circles More Likely to Hold High-Ranking Leadership Positions

A new study from researchers at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and Northwestern University in Illinois has found that women who communicate regularly with a female-dominated inner circle are more likely to attain high-ranking leadership positions.

For the study, researchers reviewed social and communication networks of more than 700 former graduate students from a top-ranked business school in the United States. Each student in the study had accepted leadership-level positions, which were normalized for industry and region-specific salaries. The researches then compared three variables of each students’ social network: network centrality, the proportion of same-sex contacts, and the amount of strong versus weak network ties.

The results showed that women with a high network centrality and a female-dominated inner circle have an expected job placement level that is 2.5 times greater than women with low network centrality and a male-dominated inner circle. For men, the larger their network, regardless of gender makeup, the more likely they are to earn a high-ranking position.

“We also saw that inner circles benefit from each other, suggesting that women gain gender-specific private information and support from their inner circle, while non-overlapping connections provide other job market details,” said co-author Nitesh Chawla, the Frank M. Freimann Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Notre Dame.

The full study, “A Network’s Gender Composition and Communication Pattern Predict Women’s Leadership Success,” was published on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It may be accessed here.

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