Networking (Part II)

Networking is a Man’s Game (Part II of IV):

The Theory of Weak Ties

The Theory of Weak Ties states that your ability to discover opportunities becomes bigger when your network is expansive and full of connections, as weak as they may be. This theory was written by Mark S. Granovetter in his paper “The Strength of Weak Ties”. Granovetter asserts that in a small network of strong ties or in a close group of friends, there are rarely people that you don’t know or that don’t know you. By expanding the number of weak ties that one has, it increases the number of potential connections. However, communication and relationship management styles may be tied to gender and could influence the amount of weak ties women have versus men.

Gender differences in networking styles and preferences may also strongly influence the network that a business owner can build. According to “Women and Weak Ties” by J. Miller McPherson and Lynn Smith-Lovin, there are major differences between men and women in respect to networking. Men tend to be involved in much larger organizations centered around an economic or business institution. Comparatively, women are involved in more close-knit, intimate groups that have more to do with community-oriented activities rather than business. According to the Theory of Weak Ties, the weaker connections one has, the more opportunity they have to expand their network. In this situation then, men have a greater advantage to garner a large network compared to women.

The importance of connections and networking is not one that goes unnoticed. Every leader will tell you that one of the best ways to advance in careers is to know people. Having a large bank of connections is what allows entrepreneurs to build dynamic teams and encourage diversity of ideas. The pool of acquaintances that men have as compared to women is much larger, just given their preferred method of networking.

Typically, larger organizations tend to play a larger role in the community. This is due to the fact that larger organizations have more members and a larger ability to influence the community, put on events, and have influential members. Larger groups create more connections faster, because networks tend to grow exponentially.

According to a study completed by McPherson on membership differences based on gender, he found that men join groups that on average are three times larger than those of women. It was also found that the “size ratio of men’s business associations to women’s is over four to one”, which means that, “not only are women less likely to belong to business organizations, but also the organizations that they do belong to are much smaller and therefore less likely to figure prominently in the operation of the system”.

According to the Theory of Weak Ties, it seems that women are at a disadvantage when it comes to networking simply by the way their networking is set up. This is one area that greatly needs an innovative new approach, so women can better expand their community size without sacrificing their preferred method of relating to one another.

Lauren Pike