When Gender Stereotypes Prevent Women from Networking Efficiently


While women network as much as men, they seem to benefit less from their networking activities. One possible mechanism to explain this paradox is that women network less efficiently than men because they renounce some networking actions for fear of being misjudged. Since women are sometimes stereotyped as able and willing to use their power of attraction to manipulate men, certain networking strategies could appear risky to them. In particular, women may expect that actions aimed at deepening and strengthening relationships with their male supervisors will reflect negatively on their image. For this reason, they could be less likely to engage in those actions, at the cost of valuable relationships and potential career rewards. I test the two parts of this model (i.e., how women think they would be perceived, and how people would actually perceive them) in two pre-registered online experiments using vignettes. In the first study, I find partial support for the hypothesized model as well as unpredicted results. Women are not less likely than men to engage in network-deepening actions with supervisors of the opposite (rather than same) gender, even if they associate more image risk than men with those actions. However, men are less likely than women to engage in network-deepening actions with a colleague of the opposite (rather than same) gender because of the image risk they associate with those actions. In the second study, I find that individuals do not evaluate women engaged in network-deepening actions with a supervisor of the opposite (rather than same) gender more negatively than men doing the same, which suggests that women’s fear for their image is unwarranted.

Zoé Ziani
Zoé Ziani

PhD in Organizational Behavior