Abraham: Networking groups come up short on referrals for women

July 16, 2015


“It’s not what you know, but who you know” says the old adage, but new research shows when it comes to business referrals, gender can matter a great deal. Mabel Abraham, PhD ’15, spent two years reviewing years of records from a referral-generating organization where entrepreneurs share contacts, pitch their services, and win new business. Her findings help explain the disproportionate results achieved by women in social networks, notably the disparity in receiving referrals from colleagues.

When it came to referring colleagues to others—friends, family and clients—women came up short in being connected to new business. Abraham found the gap is largely driven by male-dominated fields, where women received fewer referrals than men in the same field. Abraham calls this “anticipatory third-party bias” to explain when group members “expect that a client, friend, or family member has a preference for men over women, they disproportionately give referrals to male rather than female network group members.” Follow the full article on this research at the MIT Sloan Newsroom

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