By Liz Warren-Pederson
In three books aimed at different audiences, Associate Professor of Management Ken Koput sheds light on social capital, the underpinning connections between individuals that can have profound implications for inter-organizational dynamics, dynamics between firms, and the individuals themselves.
Koput co-authored two of the books with colleagues in the Department of Management and Organizations; all three books are important additions to academic literature in this subset of management research.
The first of the books is a text designed for undergraduate or graduate students, Social Capital: An Introduction to Managing Networks.
“The idea is to lay out different kinds of social capital, to establish a terminology, then provide tools for mapping and analyzing social structure,” said Koput. “Not only can this be used as a way to help diagnose problems within organizations, it can also help uncover opportunities to make better use of a person’s skills or a firm’s resources.”
For example, a firm in one case study launches a strategic planning session across its five divisions. The manager selected to lead the team is widely consulted for technical advice by all employees and is regarded as an expert. But the planning exercise fails. Closer analysis of the underlying social network reveals that while he has many effective relationships for technical advice, he has fewer trust relationships. Within the context of the strategic planning exercise, his peers view him as loyal to his own division.
The second book, edited by Koput and Associate Professor of Management Joe Broschak, is a volume of collected research articles targeted at doctoral students and academics. Social Capital in Businessmakes the case that innovative social investments are essential to succeeding in the increasingly connected business environment.
“There is a larger consciousness about social networks — the noun, not the verb — today,” said Broschak. “Understanding the structures and patterns of these networks and exposing their underlying mechanisms has important implications for managers and entrepreneurs.”
In the book, Koput and Broschak point to interesting work in the field and suggest potential avenues for additional exploration. “In terms of helping businesses and managers looking to create and benefit from social capital, this volume is not a cookbook of recipes, but rather a book about the nature of cooking,” Koput said. “We were trying to bring together different approaches to the topic and organize them in a way that makes sense to present the kinds of ongoing issues and debates in social capital research.”
Koput co-authored the final book, Gender Stratification in the IT Industry, with Barbara Gutek, Professor of Management and Eller Chair in Women and Leadership.
Using data collected over a four-year period, the book proffers a social capital explanation for the persistent gender stratification in the IT industry. “The findings are complicated,” Koput said. “As the field changed from being low-status in the 1980s to high-status in the 1990s — as being a geek became fashionable — the opportunities for women in fast-track positions has declined.”
“It’s tricky for women to advance in the field,” Gutek said. “They have to be very sophisticated about the way that they interact with their social networks.”
Mimicking the structure of a successful male’s social network doesn’t produce the same results, Koput pointed out. “In spite of getting better grades and good small-team leadership experience, women get fewer interviews and job offers in IT and the offers that do come are at lower salaries,” he said.
“It’s complex, because we don’t find evidence of gender discrimination per se,” Gutek said. “These are progressive-minded individuals who are accustomed to cross-gender interactions. What we’re seeing is sex-role spillover into the workplace from the ways men and women interact in larger society.”
“What we find is that social structure matters when it comes to filtering or transmitting job opportunities to women in IT as a function of a lot of other things,” Koput said. “Individually, women have very different networks than do men. And collectively, those networks combine to provide two different social structures, one for men and another for women. When it comes to offering advice, we don’t find a single, clear-cut prescription that will provide universal benefit. Woman succeed in a variety of unique ways. But success for women is still not what it is for men.”