Left but Not Forgotten: Gender Differences in Networks and Performance Following Mobility
55 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2020 Last revised: 31 Jan 2022
Date Written: January 28, 2022
Brokerage in intra-organizational networks is critical to performance; but research suggests that women do not benefit from brokerage as consistently as men and, in some cases, women brokers’ performance suffers. We theorize that mobility is one key contingent factor that enables women to benefit from brokerage. Using a rich proprietary dataset including the personnel records, monthly performance, and email communications of thousands of employees, we examine job changes occurring within a large financial institution. Comparing objective performance prior to and following each job change, we show that women’s performance is less hampered than that of men when they change jobs. And this variation in performance can be explained by women’s and men’s differential likelihood of retaining communication ties to colleagues at their previous jobs or “network resilience.” Such network resilience allows women movers to occupy brokerage positions and, more importantly, gives them a gender-role congruent justification that may neutralize gender-based differences in the returns to brokerage. In that sense, mobility gives women “license” to enjoy the structural benefits of brokerage without suffering the associated cost of being perceived as agentic. 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
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