Completed: Where corporate networks are born. A longitudinal study of gender differences in social networks in elite business education, and their long-term career affects

This project will examine how companies' elite social networks are formed and developed over time by studying how men and women network at a business school in Finland.

Despite being well-represented among business students, only a few women reach the top ranks of the corporate world. When seeking explanations for this imbalance, evidence points toward the importance of informal social structures; notably in the form of social networks. Women’s corporate careers are assumed to be hampered by their relative lack of relevant social networks. However, there is an overall lack of knowledge of how such gender differences in corporate career networks arise and develop over time. This is partially due to a general lack of longitudinal network studies in the field.

In this 4-year research project we aim to address this gap in the literature by investigating how business elite networks form and evolve over time, with special respect to gender. We will do this by focusing on how such networks arise among multiple cohorts of Master’s students at Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki; arguably two of the most prominent business institution in Nordic higher education.

We will employ a unique longitudinal mixed-method research design; combining a quantitative mapping of students’ social networks with qualitative interviews about their networking strategies and experiences. The project will make a novel contribution to the literature on corporate elite formation and the role elite business schools play in that process. It will, furthermore, inform a topical societal discussion on gender and corporate power.



Principal Investigator

Gergei Farkas

Project members

Anna Tyllström PhD, Business Studies
Sofiya Voytiv PhD, Sociology

Other project members


The Swedish Research Council