Gender and Social Network Brokerage: A Meta-Analysis and Field Investigation

Ruolian Fang, Zhen Zhang, Jason D. Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we aim to address 2 important questions: (a) Are women less likely than men to occupy network brokerage positions? And if so, (b) what mechanisms may explain their fewer brokerage roles? Study 1, a meta-analysis examining gender differences in network brokerage, analyzed a cumulative sample of 15,743 individuals (69 independent samples) to show that women were less likely to be brokers in both instrumental and expressive networks, which partly explained their lower career success. Study 2, a follow-up study with 2 independent samples of new employees (n = 150 and 245, respectively), examined both structural opportunity (job-based opportunity and workplace discrimination) and individual agency (proactive networking) as potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between gender and network brokerage. Results of these 2 samples consistently show that proactive networking mediated gender's effect on network brokerage that was measured 6 months after the new employees entered their organizations. The predictions regarding the mediation effects of job-based opportunity and workplace discrimination were not supported. Our findings offer valuable insights into the relative positions of women and men in informal structures of organizational networks, advance our understanding of gender inequality in career outcomes, and shed new light on the relative importance of individual agency and structural opportunity in explaining individuals' occupancy of advantageous network positions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1630-1654
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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