Is LinkedIn A Gender Equalizer?

Women are more prolific networkers in male-dominated industries. Is social media correcting the real-life old-boys’ club?



Women are the best networkers in the tobacco and ranching industries; men rule cosmetics, according to LinkedIn‘s new study of the 21st century workforce, Battle of the Sexes, in which the social network tapped its massive trove of user data to examine gender imbalances between industries. A logical conclusion from the results that seem contrary to common sense is that women in male-dominated industries (and vice versa) seek refuge through social media.

According to LinkedIn’s data scientist, Scott Nicholson, the “top U.S. industries where women are savvier online professional networkers than men” are:

  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Tobacco
  • Alternative medicine
  • Ranching
  • International trade and development

Nicholson says the “savviness” measure accounts for the fact that more men are on LinkedIn and also have more connections in general. A perfectly balanced industry would be one where men and women have equal numbers of connections given their percentage of the population.


LinkedIn also found that men are more savvy in

  • Medical practice
  • Hospital & health care
  • Cosmetics
  • Law enforcement
  • Capital markets

Given the likelihood of female dominance in cosmetics, men might be turning online to make connections that they can’t otherwise make in the real world. “It could be because that industry is dominated by females; as a male, to break into that industry, you need to be a strong networker, you’re swimming upstream,” says LinkedIn spokesperson Krista Canfield, “but that’s not something data can tell us for sure, it’s just a hypothesis.”

For now, the data models are relatively unsophisticated: There’s no indication how variables such as seniority, workplace experience, or any of the millions of other factors may contribute to gender-based networking (something typically done by economists when looking at causes of gender inequality).


So, this is your chance to tell LinkedIn what and how you’d like LinkedIn to explore their data. What other factors are relevant in the gender divide? Or, perhaps you’d like different questions answered–maybe related to industry turnover, unknown influential demographics online, or how LinkedIn connections lead to new job opportunities. With over 100 million users, LinkedIn has one of the most unique and exhaustive datasets of the workforce that exists, far more robust than many economic surveys of individual employers.

Post in the comments and let the data team know what you’d like to see. We’ve also included how various Internet giants stack up in the Battle of the Sexes, and we’ve linked the names from our Most Innovative Companies list (Google and Facebook are female savvy; Netflix and Zynga are male savvy).


Male Savvy

Female savvy



[Image: Flickr user nan palmero]


About the author

I am a writer and an educator. As a writer, I investigate how technology is shaping education, politics, Generation Y, social good, and the media industry


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