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Laura Weis and Alixe Lay

This chapter addresses the problem of why women are underrepresented in leadership positions. It focuses on gender differences in the building and maintenance of social networks at work. Men and women differ in the structure of their personal networks, as well as in the rewards gained from them. Men tend to have a greater number of instrumental ties (relationships that provide job-related resources) while women have a greater number of expressive ties (relationships that provide emotional and social support). Thus, women have smaller networks of stronger relationships, while men use their networks as a way to get ahead. In short, women like to get along with others, men ahead of others. There are different theoretical explanations for this ranging from evolutionary psychology to social learning theory. However, because men establish bigger, more heterogeneous and more advantageous networks than women they are advantaged at work. This is probably not a function of personal skill or motivation but social conventions which prescribe and proscribe various behaviours leading to distinct network characteristics.