Gender and Homophily Among MBA Graduates: Men’s and Women’s Informal Friendship Networks and Career Outcomes

Jane Lankes , Pennsylvania State University
Sarah Damaske, Pennsylvania State University

Previous research indicates that formal work networks play a role in men’s and women’s differential career outcomes. Less is known about informal networks and how they contribute to gender inequality in career progression. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with seventy-three MBA graduates, we examine how informal friendships at work shape men and women’s career advancement and trajectories. Results indicate that women are less likely than men to use informal channels for career advancement. Even when they do, however, it does not benefit their career trajectories. Conversely, men’s use of informal networks is associated with an accelerated career trajectory. We additionally find that while men gain from homophilic informal networks (i.e. primarily male networks), women’s outcomes do not differ by gender composition. This suggests that one way in which women become disadvantaged at work is through their exclusion from powerful (male) informal networks.

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 Presented in Session 9. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions; Gender, Race, & Ethnicity