Gender Stratification in the IT Industry
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Gender Stratification in the IT Industry

Sex, Status and Social Capital

Kenneth W. Koput and Barbara A. Gutek

This illuminating monograph introduces a status-equilibrating, social capital explanation for the persistent gender stratification in the field of information technology. The authors analyze why the workforce has become increasingly male-dominated over time by looking at how pre-employment conditions provide different experiences and opportunities for women and men.
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Chapter 2: Social Capital and Status Equilibration

Kenneth W. Koput and Barbara A. Gutek


2.1 THE SOCIAL CAPITAL IN STATUS, SOCIAL TIES AND SEX ROLES Social capital refers to the potential to access and control information or other resources flowing throughout a social network, and work on this concept has argued that a person’s ability to garner returns based on their human capital is shaped by these flows (Coleman, 1988; Burt, 1997; Adler and Kwon, 2002). Portes (1998) provides an early overview of the concept of social capital and its applications, including educational attainment and retention. The social capital literature has burgeoned since, and now provides nuance to the mechanisms by which social ties work. We will use social capital as a lever to integrate the sex-role literature with that on social networks. Broadly speaking, the social capital literature points out the difference between two types of ties, weak and strong, and the associated types of social resources they bring, contacts and cohesion. The study by Lai, Lin and Leung (1998) suggests that both contacts and cohesion are important social resources with different effects. Contacts enable status attainment, but only if the contact is itself of higher status. Cohesion enables mobilization, and, since cohesive ties are stronger in a structural sense, they can drive actors toward a common good in spite of status differences, or they can remove status considerations. Prior interaction weakens stereotypes when it facilitates getting to know someone as an individual rather than as a representative of a group or category. For example, research findings suggest that stereotyping plays less of...

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