Left but Not Forgotten: How Mobility Grants Women License to Broker
Conditionally Accepted to Administrative Science Quarterly
Posted: 4 Nov 2020 Last revised: 26 Oct 2023
Date Written: October 25, 2023
Brokerage in intra-organizational networks is critical to performance; yet women exhibit less brokerage in their social networks and receive lower performance returns to the brokerage they do exhibit than men. We uncover a condition under which the gender gaps in network advantage are entirely negated: mobility grants women license to broker. When women move between units of the organization, they increase their brokerage more than mobile men and, further, such mobility eliminates the gender gap in returns to brokerage. Using a rich dataset including the personnel records, monthly performance, and email communications of thousands of employees within a large financial institution, we find support for our arguments by comparing networks and objective performance of those who changed jobs with matched non-movers prior to and following each job change. In probing why this might be the case, we find that women movers are more likely to maintain communication ties to colleagues from their previous roles; and that these persistent ties give them a discernible and gender-role congruent explanation for connecting otherwise disconnected units and, therefore, benefiting from network brokerage. Our results illuminate important mechanisms by which social network dynamics and mobility affect gender inequality and performance in organizations.
Keywords: Communication Networks, Intra-organizational Mobility, Gender, Situational Licenses, Network Brokerage
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