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Research Seminar Series

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START DATE 01 February 2017
END DATE 01 February 2017

Impressing for Success: A Gendered Analysis of a Key Social Capital Accumulation Strategy

Savita Kumra

Middlesex University Dubai


Social capital theory assesses the career benefits that accrue to individuals from the stock of relationships they have. Such benefits can be in the form of guidance and advice, access to key projects and assignments and help with setting up business deals. However, when assessing whether such career-enhancing resources are available equally to men and women, we find that gender impacts on the access to and accumulation of social capital. The article seeks to address two key research questions. The first is whether women are aware of the need to accumulate social capital to advance their careers and the second is whether they use impression management techniques in order to assist them in doing this. Findings are reported from a study in an international consulting firm with 19 female consultants. In respect of research question one the findings indicate that women in the sample are aware of the need to accumulate social capital to advance their careers; with particular emphasis being placed on the importance of gaining access to influential sponsors. In respect of research question two, the findings confirm that women in the sample do perceive the necessity to utilise impression management techniques to help them to accumulate social capital. This is done in a defensive way and is linked to ensuring that one is seen as ambitious, likable and available. It is argued that these are key organizational norms, and it is perceived that in order to accumulate social capital, women need to actively work to dispel the negative stereotypes that attach to them because of their gender. The article calls for greater recognition of the impact that masculine organizational cultures have on the career development of women, who not only have to perform at a high level but are also required to expend additional energy conforming to masculine organizational cultures they have had little say in creating.

Keywords: career advancement, gender, impression management, professional services, social capital


Dr. Savita Kumra (BA (Hons.), MSc (Econ.), PhD, CIPD) is an Associate Professor at Middlesex University Dubai. Savita completed her Masters at the London School of Economics and her Doctorate at Cranfield School of Management where she is a Visiting Fellow in the School of Management. Savita is also an International Research Fellow at the Said Business School, University of Oxford, Centre for Professional Services. Savita has held a number of academic posts including Brunel University and Oxford Brookes University, both in the UK. Savita is a committee member of the British Academy of Management Special Interest Group on Gender in Management, and on the Editorial Board of Gender in Management: An International Journal. She is also an Associate Editor for the World acclaimed journal Gender, Work and Organization. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Savita’s key research interests focus on Leadership, diversity, the career development process and the importance of developing and deploying key career enhancement strategies, e.g. impression management, and building and leveraging social capital. She has co-written ‘Managing Equality and Diversity’ with her colleague Professor Simonetta Manfredi and edited the Oxford Handbook of Gender in Organizations with Professor Ruth Simpson and Professor Ronald Burke. She has published articles in British Journal of Management, Gender, Work and Organization, Journal of Business Ethics, Fordham Law review. She has also contributed chapters to several volumes on Women in Organizations and Leadership.

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