Gender, brokerage, and performance: A construal approach

Raina A. Brands, Ajay Mehra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


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 finds that women (but not men) exhibit lower performance when they perceive themselves as brokers in small-group friendship networks. Using data from a larger group of MBA students, Study 2 replicates this finding and rules out the possibility that underlying differences in the propensity to connect those whom one bridges may explain the observed gender-based difference in broker performance. Using an experimental design, Study 3 finds that elevated anxiety about task performance and negative social evaluations mediate 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 to account for gender differences in the performance of network brokers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-219
Number of pages24
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright of the Academy of Management, all rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting (all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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