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75% of high-ranking women maintain a woman-dominated inner circle

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Most of us have heard the saying: “When women support each other, incredible things can happen.” After all, in a world where women are increasingly looking to get their voices heard in pushing for diversity and inclusion at the workplace, receiving support from fellow women means a lot.

And a recent study titled: “A network’s gender composition and communication pattern predict women’s leadership success”, has proven that.

Conducted by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame, this study found that when women are more likely to attain high-ranking leadership positions when they have a woman-dominated support network.

In fact, it revealed that more than 75% of high-ranking women maintained a woman-dominated inner circle, or had “strong ties to two or three women with whom they communicated frequently. On the contrary, men with a larger network, regardless of the gender involved, are more likely to earn a high-ranking post.

Yang Yang, lead author of the study, a research assistant professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and a member of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, said: “In this context, such an inner circle can provide trustworthy, gender-relevant information about job cultures and social support, which are very important to women in male-dominated settings.”

As part of the study, researchers reviewed the social and communication networks of more than 700 ex-graduate students from a “top-ranked business school in the United States.” Each of these students had accepted leadership-level positions, which were normalised for industry and region-specific salaries.

The researchers then compared three variables in each of their social networks – size of the social network, proportion of same-sex contacts, and the number of strong versus weak network ties.

Through the review, it was found that women with a larger social network size and a woman-dominated inner circle had an expected job placement level at 2.5 times greater than those with a smaller social network size and men-dominated inner circle.

Thus, while these connections might have improved access to public information that would be important to job search and negotiations, having a woman-dominated inner circle or support network could “help women gain gender-specific information that is more important in a male-dominated job market.”



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