My research addresses the question of why women and men receive different returns to social structure. I argue that a key factor that current structural explanations omit is women’s and men’s construals of their networks (i.e., subjective perceptions, interpretations, and experiences). In this talk, I demonstrate the value of this theoretical approach through two lines of research that illuminate the interconnectedness of social networks as a source of social identity threat for women (but not men). The first line of research examines women’s experiences of stereotype threat when they perceive themselves to broker (i.e., bridge between disconnected others) in friendship networks. In three studies – two student-based field studies and one experiment, we demonstrate that women (but not men) who perceive themselves to be brokers in their surrounding network of friends experience elevated anxiety about task and social evaluations, impairing their performance. In the second line of research, we show that interconnected networks buffer women against the chronic social identity threat they experience as entrepreneurs. In two studies – one experiment and one field survey – we show that women (but not men) entrepreneurs who are embedded in interconnected networks experience less social identity threat and as a consequence, are more likely to persist in entrepreneurship (i.e., incorporate their startups). Women and men differ in how they psychologically construe social networks, and this difference helps explain gender differences in returns to social structure. I close the talk by offering insights about future directions that arise from this theoretical perspective, highlighting opportunities, limitations, and open questions.
This event is part of the Nuffield Social Networks Seminar Series.