It is widely recognized that technology is removing the physical barriers to upper level management that existed in the past (Podolny & Baron, 1997). In over 70% of the cases, electronic communications such as e-mail, text messaging, Web logs (blogs), and social networking sites (SNSs) are the primary communication medium for employees. In particular, SNS usage such as Facebook.com and LinkedIn.com has exploded in recent years (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). A noteworthy example of the successful usage of Facebook occurred when the first African-American President, Barrack Obama was elected as President of the United States of America in November 2008.
It is also recognized that traditionally underrepresented minority groups such as Hispanics, African Americans and other ethnic groups are quickly becoming the majority in the United States. However, power is still concentrated at the top of organizations among Caucasian males. Traditional network theory posits that network centrality, namely participation and acceptance in networks, is critical for career success or attainment. We propose that successful usage of technology such as SNSs for networking purposes helps to shatter the typical glass-ceiling barriers to career success that minority groups have traditionally faced by moderating the relationship between demographic variables and network participation and acceptance
CAREER SUCCESS AND SOCIAL NETWORKS
During these difficult economic times, individuals are increasingly reevaluating their career goals, directions, career/job satisfaction, and the need for examining factors that influence career success is becoming increasingly important. Career success is defined as the accumulated positive work and psychological outcomes resulting from one's work experiences (Arthur et al., 2005). Organizational research has developed theories and models of career success utilizing demographic, human capital, motivational, organizational, and industry variables (Igbaria & Wormley, 1995; Ng, Eby, Sorensen, & Feldman, 2005; Seibert, Kraimer, & Liden, 2001). The literature is full of studies that are aimed at predicting and facilitating career success by investigating how variables such as gender (Lyness & Thompson, 2000), personality (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen & Barrick, 1999) education (Hurley, Segrest-Purkiss, & Sonnenfeld, 2005; Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, & Barrick, 1995), and tenure in the organization (Hurley, Wally, Segrest, Scandura, & Sonnenfeld, 2003) are empirically related to 'career success.' Although several studies have provided considerable insight into the determinants of career outcomes, the roles of social network participation and acceptance are still in the nascent stages of investigation (Combs, 2003; Forret & Dougherty, 2004; Ibarra, 1995; Stoloff, Glanville, & Bienenstock, 1999).
Scholars have found that social networks are important for career advancement (e.g., Ibarra & Smith-Lovin, 1997). For instance, Seibert and his colleagues (2001) found that social networks, defined as the pattern of ties linking a defined set of persons or social actors play a crucial role in an individual's access to career opportunities. Social network theories provide a detailed analysis of the ways that individuals' social networks affect their careers in organizations (Bhatt, Gupta, & Sharma, 2007; Burt, 1992; Ibarra, 1995). Specifically, studies have focused on the use of social capital--the access and use of resources embedded in social networks--by individuals to gain opportunities for career advancement through the use of power (Ferris & Judge, 1991), reputation (Kilduff & Krackhardt, 1994; Tsui, Egan, & O'Reilly, 1992;), and influence (Brass, 1984, Brass, 1985). In sum, social networks delineate a variety of social capital resources that are critical for career success both objectively and subjectively, in terms of salary, promotion or advancement, as well as job and career satisfaction (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Friedman et al., 1998; Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, & Barrick, 1999; Seibert et al., 2001).
Since considerable research has shown that social networks positively affect career success (Podolny & Baron, 1997), advancement (Ibarra, 1995), and satisfaction (Burt, 1992), it serves to note that participation and acceptance within these social networks are of utmost importance (Friedman, Kane, & Cornfield, 1998; Friedman and Craig, 2004). However, studies in network theory have utilized social networks strictly as an independent variable, gauging its influence on various outcomes (Ibarra, 1995). Given the importance of social networks on career success, the understanding of the influence of network participation and acceptance is necessary.
This paper identifies the influence of demographic variables on participation and acceptance in the social network, and investigates how technology may moderate this influence. Rather than concentrate on how specific network ties may lead to career advancement or success, this paper focuses on network participation and acceptance, and then discusses the demographic variables that affect participation and acceptance in this structure. Specifically, it is proposed that technology will lower the barriers that demographic differences tend to erect (Chernesky, 2003; Morrison, White, & Van Velsor, 1987), thereby allowing a greater level of participation in networks by a more diverse set of individuals and a greater acceptance of those individuals by the social networks. Since Stoloff, Glanville and Bienenstock (1999) found that more diverse social networks promote a greater level of career advancement and satisfaction, the increased acceptance of diverse individuals into the social network will lead to a greater level of overall career development within the organizational environment.
First a model is provided of the chosen antecedents to career success currently in the literature. This current view is followed by an extensive review of the social network literature discussing formal and informal networks and the influence of demographic variables and technology on the current paradigm. The moderating influence of technology is examined as a more descriptive conceptual model is developed from which propositions are derived. Finally, the paper closes with future research directions and conclusions. This conceptual evaluation will enhance the knowledge of the role of networks in the organization's social environment, while exploring the obstacles that exist for inclusion and acceptance in these social networks.
Over the last decade scholars have offered a number of antecedents to career attainment or success. Some important predictors of career success include education, motivation, and family status such as dependent responsibilities and family structure (Judge, Cable, Boudreau, & Bretz, 1995; Judge et al., 1999; …