Social Connections in the Workplace Do Not Benefit Women [Study]

Who you know might carry more weight in your hiring than your actual work knowledge and experience. Work experience in the field should result in meeting helpful social contacts, and these individuals might eventually give a helping hand in entering the workforce. Unfortunately for women, a North Carolina State University study found that women do not receive the benefits of work contacts made through experience. For one reason or another, only men enjoy the benefits of social connections.

Dr. Steve McDonald, an assistant professor of sociology at NCSU, found that men often find work through existing connections without actually engaging in a job search. For men with this existing experience, they were more likely to find a job through being recruited than they were through a typical job search. This is not true for the women examined in the study, and social connections were no more likely to result in a job than a formal search for employment.

McDonald used a data set of 12,000 individuals across the nation to conduct this study. The data was used to examine the role of experience when searching for new employment. Previous research has suggested that women in similar positions receive lower pay due to the lack of formal opportunities to develop job skills, but McDonald’s study would suggest that this is not the case. Essentially, women may have the same formal work experience as men, but the lack of a useful contact may be what drives the wage gap between men and women.

Unfortunately for women, many higher position job fields fill positions through an informal recruiting process that is almost entirely based on knowing the right people, and this type of hiring favors men. Without a useful social contact, obtaining a job in one of these fields through a formal job search is difficult. As long as this type of hiring continues to favor men, the wage gap will remain in place. According to McDonald, enforcing formal hiring protocols is current the way to combat inequitable hiring practices in competitive managerial positions.

According to McDonald, women do possess social connections gained from work experience, but these contacts are not as useful as those held by men. The reason for this difference is currently unknown, and McDonald insists that more research is needed before any formal conclusions can be reached. In the meantime, he says, formal hiring practices can be a temporary solution.

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