Gender, Friendship Homophily, and the Reputation for Leadership in Organizations

Diane Kang, Ajay Mehra, Mohamed Hédi Charki, Nabila Boukef


This paper uses a network lens to examine the relationship between gender, friendship, and the reputation for leadership in the workplace. We focus on two questions in particular: At the dyadic level, we ask: Do women and men differ in the tendency to preferentially attribute leadership to those they see as friends? At the individual level, we ask: is the tendency to build friendship networks composed of same-sex others (i.e., gender-homophilous networks) negatively related to women’s reputation for leadership? Our theory draws on the network-oriented literature on gender-schemas and works out its implications for the reputation for leadership in the workplace. Data used to test hypotheses come from two organizations: an R&D firm located in North America; and the members of a department (a Call Center) within a French e-commerce company. We find, first, that whereas men tend to nominate leaders from among their friends, women’s leadership nominations are relatively unconstrained by their friendships. Second, for women, but not for men, same-gender friendships are negatively related to the reputation for leadership, although this relationship was only significant in the North American organization. Our paper contributes new theory and evidence to the ongoing debate over why women and men appear to reap different returns from seemingly similar social networks.

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