mcguire - McGuire INFORMAL NETWORKS GENDER SOCIETY June...

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GENDER & SOCIETY / June 2002 McGuire / INFORMAL NETWORKS AND INEQUALITY GENDER, RACE, AND THE SHADOW STRUCTURE A Study of Informal Networks and Inequality in a Work Organization GAIL M. M C GUIRE Indiana University at South Bend In this article, I analyze survey data from more than 1,000 financial services employees to understand how gender inequality manifests itself in employees’informal networks. I found that even when Black and white women had jobs in which they controlled organizational resources and had ties to powerful employees, they received less work-related help from their network members than did white men. Draw- ing on status characteristics theory, I explain that network members were less likely to invest in women than in white men because of cultural beliefs that rank women below that of white men. While past research has documented how employers use gender to rank workers and distribute rewards unequally, my research indicates that workers use gender to categorize and rank their network members as well. Somewhere behind the formal organization chart at Indsco was another, shadow structure in which dramas of power were played out. —Kanter (1977, 164) When I first read Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s (1977) Men and Women of the Corpo- ration , I was drawn to her description of the shadow structure in corporations, where employees built alliances, traded organizational resources, and managed their reputations. This informal side of organizational life is also the place, I argue, where unspoken rules of interaction make gender inequality possible and highly 303 AUTHOR’S NOTE: I thank Michael Davern, Lowell Hargens, David Knoke, Betsy Lucal, Patricia Yancey Martin, Michael McCrary, Daniel Olson, Barbara Reskin, and four Gender & Society reviewers for their insights on this project. This research was supported by a fellowship from Indiana University and grants from The Ohio State University. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2000 annual meetings of the American Sociological Association in Washington, D.C. All correspondence should be directed to Dr. Gail M. McGuire, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Indiana Uni- versity at South Bend, 1700 Mishawaka Avenue, South Bend, IN 46634-7111; e-mail: [email protected] iusb.edu. REPRINT REQUESTS: Gail M. McGuire, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Indiana Uni- versity at South Bend, 1700 Mishawaka Avenue, South Bend, IN 46634-7111. GENDER & SOCIETY, Vol. 16 No. 3, June 2002 303-322 © 2002 Sociologists for Women in Society
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resistant to change. It is the goal of this article to understand how gender inequality is achieved in the shadows of formal organizational life. Sociologists have begun to understand the shadow structure in work organiza- tions by examining informal networks, or the web of relationships in which people exchange resources and services (Cook 1982; Scott 1991; Wellman 1983). Infor- mal networks differ from formal networks in that their membership is voluntary and in that they help workers achieve work-related, personal, and social goals through unofficial channels (Ibarra 1993). Network scholars describe informal networks as
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