Women, Networks, and Technology

January 19th, 2019

Why this is important right now:

Research abounds showing the positive impact of diversity – and gender diversity in particular – on an organization’s outcomes. For example, a recent McKinsey study showed 47% higher return on equity for companies with women on executive committees.1

However, women are unique in that they are the only historically disadvantaged group who make up nearly 50% of the workforce. Despite that, they are woefully underrepresented at top levels. Fewer than 5% of S&P 500 CEOs are women and only 26% of senior management positions are occupied by women.2

To address this, organizations have recently invested in unconscious bias training in droves. However, it is not at all clear that unconscious bias is the villain. One large-scale analysis of more than 80 research studies and 17,000 individuals found no reliable relationship between measures of unconscious bias and actual behavior.3 And even if unconscious bias did affect behavior in some cases, simple awareness cannot remove implicit bias. It cannot be trained away. Diversity training, in fact, is one of the least effective methods to promoting diversity and inclusion.4 It may even make matters worse.5


Exclusion from informal professional networks has been identified as one of the greatest barriers to career success.6 One multinational study of over 240,000 men and women found that while 81% of women report some form of exclusion at work—astonishingly—92% of men don’t believe that they are excluding women at all!7

However, research shows that men’s and women’s networks do not seem to follow consistent patterns, revealing that solving the problem is not so as easy as simply identifying new ways in which women should build their networks. Instead, we believe organizations may need to re-think work partitioning, training, mentoring, sponsorship programs, and collaborative technologies to create opportunities for professionals to develop effective working relationships built on understanding and trust.

To that end, RedThread Research is excited to announce our new research initiative on how women use their networks to advance in organizations and the potential opportunity for technology to amplify those network behaviors. This research is being supported by GSV AcceleraTE. The final research report will be previewed at the 2019 ASU GSV Summit, April 8-10 in San Diego, and published shortly thereafter.

This Project:​

This research will focus on identifying how women can more effectively use existing opportunities, overcome factors that hinder performance, examine the role of technology, and make recommendations on what can be done by women and men as individuals, and organizations as the system in which people work, to improve women’s likelihood to rise in companies.

More specifically, we will examine the following topics:

Women, Networks, and Technology: Premise


The above list represents our initial hypotheses as to what the study will cover. However, one of our core values at RedThread is collaboration and we need you to be a part of the process. We are collaborating with Dr. Inga Carboni, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the College of William and Mary, to conduct interviews now through the end of March. If your organization is doing anything interesting on this topic, we encourage you to reach out to us and share your input at [email protected].

We are currently looking for folks to participate in our research around these topics:

  • How organizations help women advance in their organizations
  • How organizations help women build and develop important professional relationships inside and outside their organizations
  • How organizations are helping women design their networks intentionally
  • The importance of women’s networks and relationships in enabling them to advance within the organization
  • The role or potential opportunity of technology to democratize or accelerate women effectively using their networks

If you have an interesting story to share about the topics above, wish to participate in an interview, or have recommendations, please contact us.

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst
Priyanka photo
Priyanka Mehrotra
Research Lead at RedThread Research


  1. McKinsey & Company (October 2017), “Women in the Workplace 2017.”
  2. 2018 Catalyst study
  3. Oswald, F. L., Mitchell, G., Blanton, H., Jaccard, J., & Tetlock, P. E. (2013). Predicting ethnic and racial discrimination: A meta-analysis of IAT criterion studies Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(2), 171-192.
  4. Dobbin, Frank, Kalev, Alexandra & Kelly, Erin (Fall 2007), Diversity Management in Corporate America, Contexts, Vol. 6, Number 4, pp 21-27.
  5. Bregman, Peter (March 12, 2012), >“Diversity Training Doesn’t Work,” Harvard Business Review.
  6. Ibarra, H., Ely, R., & Kolb, D. (2013). Women rising: The unseen barriers. Harvard Business Review, 91(9), 60-67.
  7. Annis, B., & Gray, J. (2013). Work with me: 8 blind spots between men and women in business. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.