We’re all equal in the sense that we deserve the same rights, responsibilities, and respect as any other human being. But differences between men and women do exist, and ignoring them can do more harm than good.

Case in point, a recent study showed that men and women need different types of social networks to become successful leaders. In other words, guys and gals flourish under different social circumstances.

Researchers Brian Uzzi, Yang Yang, and Nitesh V. Chawla analyzed 4.5 million email communications among hundreds of students, placed directly into leadership positions. The scientists found out that students’ social networks are strong predictors of whether they’ll be placed into leadership positions (once you control for factors like personal characteristics, work experience, as well as academic performance).

Scientists analyzed 4.5 million email communications among students

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In order for men to be successful, they need to be placed centrally in the school-wide social network and have access to lots of contacts in different groups. The closer you are to the center (i.e. the intersection of all groups), the more likely you will have a higher leadership position later on.

Researchers found that men and women rise to top leadership positions thanks to different types of networks

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“Women also benefit from a central placement in the network, with access to other groups. However, women get the best results when they also have “an inner circle of close female contacts,” according to researcher Uzzi in the Harvard Business Review.

Men and women both need central placement in their school network to be sucessful

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The reason why centrality is so important to everyone is that it gives access to valuable information about the job market that gets scattered among different groups. But an ‘inner circle’ is incredibly valuable to women, while not so useful for men if they want the top job positions.

However, women also benefit greatly from having a strong inner circle of dependable friends

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“Because women seeking positions of executive leadership often face cultural and political hurdles that men typically do not, they benefit from an inner circle of close female contacts that can share private information about things like an organization’s attitudes toward female leaders, which helps strengthen women’s job search, interviewing, and negotiation strategies,” Uzzi writes.

He added: “While men had inner circles in their networks too—contacts that they communicated with most—we found that the gender composition of males’ inner circles was not related to job placement.”

Central placement in social networks + strong inner circle = successful leadership positions

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He added: “While men had inner circles in their networks too—contacts that they communicated with most—we found that the gender composition of males’ inner circles was not related to job placement.”

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