The Moderating Effects of Technology on Career Success: Can Social Networks Shatter the Glass Ceiling?

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

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. …