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Karin Kreutzer

Research Findings

Women’s leadership labyrinth: Why do women build less effective networks than men?

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February 13, 2019

Women on executive boards and in other top level leadership positions are still uncommon throughout the world. Germany is no exception: by the end of June 2017, only 47 out of 677 executive board members in the German stock-listed DAX, MDAX, SDAX, and TecDAX companies were female. There is a strong rationale for changing this status quo. In addition to moral motives to include women, we have compelling evidence of the  bottom line benefits that result from having more women in leadership positions. However, in top management teams across companies and in boards of companies where no quota applies, the progress is slow. We argue that women’s underrepresentation indicates the persistent existence of the leadership labyrinth – a metaphor for the numerous challenges faced by women in their careers. Being continually confronted with challenging twists and turns requires women to work extra hard and persist in the face of difficulties on their route to success.

Studies have shown that engagement in networking is crucial for career success as it facilitates access to critical career-building resources such as advice, technical knowledge, strategic insight or emotional support. However, research has also revealed that women’s professional networks are often less powerful and effective than men’s in terms of exchanged benefits. Also the presumably distinct motivations that underlie the networking behaviors of men and women remain less well understood. With our research, we provide new insights into the discussion on women, leadership and career development, with a specific focus on networking. With such insights we contribute to greater transparency in the leadership labyrinth with ineffective networks being one detrimental hurdle for women.

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