Gender and Networks in a Local Voluntary-Sector Elite


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Abstract

Focusing on gender inequality in a local community elite, we investigate the role of gender in access to and participation in networks of nonprofit trustees in Louisville, Kentucky. We examine two types of network relations: participation in the network of overlapping board memberships (the “structural network”) and interpersonal ties of collegiality and friendship (the “social network”). Asking whether the gender hierarchy found in most private and public sector organizations is mirrored in this inner circle of trustees, with men occupying the most influential positions in the structural and social networks, we find some male advantage in the structural network. Men predominate in holding most board seats, occupying multiple board seats, and in having slightly greater network centrality. By contrast, women hold the edge in the social network, with slightly greater centrality and higher levels of social integration. Women's disadvantage in the structural network is at least partly counterbalanced by their prominence in the social network of trustees in Louisville. Results indicate that the local nonprofit sector includes a small number of women (but no people of color) in leadership roles.

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