Gail McGuire of Indiana University South Bend and William T. Bielby of the University of Illinois-Chicago found women in U.S. firms are typically in lower-status positions and the women are not in enough higher-level positions to exchange important resources with their social networks.
"We have laws that prohibit discrimination and enforce equal pay, but that only touches the surface," McGuire said in a statement. "We need to look at informal professional structures, not formal ones. These are the real sources of inequality."
McGuire studied one of the largest financial services organizations and evaluated its informal social networks. The company is a major employer of women, but women tend to be in lower-status positions, while the men, who are of a minority at this firm, occupy higher-ranking positions.
"Since men have higher status positions, they are hoarding and monopolizing critical resources," McGuire said.
Women get more social support than men, especially among female colleagues, but that has little career impact, he said.
The findings were presented at the 105th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.