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Gender, brokerage and performance : a construal approach


Academy of Management Journal


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Brands R A;Mehra A

Publication Year



We present a new theory that seeks to explain differences in the performance of men and women friendship network brokers - individuals who bridge disconnected friends. In contrast to previous audience-centered explanations, our phenomenological theory emphasizes how brokers construe (i.e., perceive and interpret) their networks. We contend that when women perceive themselves as brokers in friendship networks, they experience threat, rooted in negative stereotypes about women brokers, which undermines their performance. Using data from a cohort of MBA students, Study 1 found that women (but not men) exhibited lower performance when they perceived themselves as brokers in small-group friendship networks. Using data from a larger group of MBA students, Study 2 replicated this finding and ruled out the possibility that underlying differences in the propensity to connect those who one bridges may explain the observed gender-based difference in broker performance. Using an experimental design, Study 3 found that elevated anxiety about task performance and negative social evaluations mediated the relationship between brokerage and performance for women but not for men. Women and men differ in how they psychologically construe brokerage in friendship networks; and this difference helps account for gender differences in the performance of network brokers.

Available on ECCH


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