Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Networks and Discrimination: Why Female Artists are Disadvantaged, and What They Can Do About It

It is not easy being an artist. Recognition of talent and creativity can be slow, sales only happen in small galleries, and initial sales are domestic and even local. The last thing artists need is discrimination in addition, but that is exactly what female artists get: a recent investigation showed that comparable paintings sell at a 42 percent discount if the artist is female.

Is there anything that can be done about such discrimination? This was the question that we (JungYun Han, Henrich R. Greve, and Andrew Shipilov) wanted to address with data on Korean artists and their exhibitions abroad. We found that female artists were less successful in exhibiting abroad, as expected, but that difference was not our main interest. Instead, we wanted to know whether we could identify anything in their careers that reduced or eliminated their disadvantage. We could.

An important step in the careers of many artists is a residency stay in which they share workspace in studios provided by the residency and also get to meet other junior and senior artists to gain inspiration and advice. Residency programs help artists succeed, which is exactly their purpose, but unexpectedly this was only true for female artists. Education in an elite art school provides top-notch technical training and artistic appreciation. Elite education helps artists succeed, which is exactly its purpose, but again there was a surprise: it benefited female artists more.

What is going on here? The best explanation for these two effects is not training, but social networks. Art residency programs and elite schools connect artists with others who can provide advice on how to approach galleries and even direct contacts to them. The best explanation for the male and female difference is that female artists have more to prove, so the benefit from a network tie is greater for them. In network effects we often see such effects – those who are accepted purely by who they are gain some benefit from a good social network, but not nearly as much as those who are discriminated against and need a social network to be introduced to the right people and become recognized for their achievements.

These effects offer clear advice for how to help women succeed in art, and probably also in other kinds of entrepreneurship and work. They also offer a warning to society because such differences can only exist because of discrimination.

Han J, Greve HR, Shipilov A (2024) The liability of gender? Constraints and enablers of foreign market entry for female artists. Journal of International Business Studies.

Monday, January 22, 2024

If Women Can’t Network and Women Can’t Move, Why is it Better for Women to do Both?

Among the many disadvantages that women have at work, here is one that is often overlooked: they have fewer opportunities to form beneficial networks, and even if they succeed, they gain less benefit than men. This matters greatly for their careers because network ties to coworkers help employees gain skills,learn about opportunities, and execute plans. A particular disadvantage is women’s problems in getting brokerage positions in network. A network broker is connected to people who are not directly connected to each other. Brokers gain separate pieces of information quickly and can quickly assemble them to form opportunities.

Why is it hard for women to become brokers? To begin with, it is hard for anyone because it requires reaching beyond the immediate work group. It is also hard because people are suspicious of brokers and may be reluctant to share information with them. In fact, the most effective brokers are those who are not known to be brokers. For women, these suspicions are especially strong because of the gendered belief that women maintain closer relations with proximate friends and coworkers. As a result, they gain less access to brokerage and less benefit from brokerage.

Changing jobs has many of the same disadvantages, even if the job change is just a reassignment ordered by the employer. But here is the interesting part: when women move, the brokerage disadvantages disappear. Both disadvantages. Women who move gain brokerage positions just as easily as men who move, and women who move obtain the same performance benefits as men who move. This is a new discovery from a paper by Evelyn Zhang, Brandy Aven, and Adam Kleinbaum published in Administrative Science Quarterly. Their idea, which turned out to be true, is that moving gives “license to broker” because network ties in the new workplace are necessary, and maintaining contacts with the prior workplace is expected – especially for women, who are supposed to be more stable network partners than men (again a gendered belief). So in this case two wrongs make a right.

Interesting? Let us not see this as encouraging information though. Even when workers benefit from gendered beliefs like this, the beliefs still create a warped workplace where opportunities and rewards are unfairly distributed.


Zhang,Evelyn Y., Brandy L. Aven, and Adam M. Kleinbaum. License to Broker: How Mobility Eliminates Gender Gaps in Network Advantage. Administrative Science Quarterly, forthcoming.