So why are there only 5 women in LinkedIn’s top 100 connected people?

by K B , updated on May 20, 2016

womenAccording to research by Boolean Black Belt’s Glen Cathey, there are only five women amongst the top 100 most connected people on LinkedIn.

Yes, you read that right – only 5!

The top 100 are people who have more than 30,000 people as first-degree connections on LinkedIn.

Now I know there’s the debate about whether it is better to have numbers in your network versus smaller and more quality connections.

I do also know there’s debate around the tactics that many people use to build up such large networks.

This question is different to that.

Given that the user base of LinkedIn is split almost down the middle when it comes to gender, you would think that would be the case in the top 100.

So what’s going on here?

Does this mean men are more competitive about size than women? My friend James suggested this when he was interviewed last week by the BRW as Australia’s most connected man on LinkedIn.

Is it because there are fewer women than men in senior and executive positions? Perhaps women invest less in networking?

Are women different networkers than men? Do they prefer fewer and closer connections?

Do women dislike putting themselves and their skills “out there” as frequently?

Global networking organisation BNI recently conducted research of 12,000 professionals exploring differences in the way men and women network. Their findings shed some light.

They found that before women network, they learn about doing it from books, seminars, networking groups and being mentored – whereas men just got in and did it.

They also found that women invested in going deeper into the relationship as well as business. Men, however, were more transactional, and often guilty of “premature solicitation.” (I so love that line).

The curiosity I have around this finding is that I would have thought that given how hard it still is for women to get a seat at the executive suite, more would have embraced the opportunity to jump in to social networks early on.

I’ve found the benefits are there to be seized.

Social media gives many a chance to be heard. If you have a talent for communicating, and for listening and engaging, then you can become a person of influence. It’s not like being ignored at the door of the board room. You do not need anybody to anoint you.

So why are there  so few women in LinkedIn’s top 100 most connected?

Is this a pointer to a deeper problem?

For the benefit of women waiting everywhere, I’d really love to hear your thoughts.

Please leave a comment below.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

James Evangelidis June 23, 2013 at 3:41 am

Great post Karalyn.

You raise a lot of interesting points. I certainly agree with the notion that women “over-prepare” before jumping into the whole networking thing, whereas men (as you say) just jump in and do it. Men, generally speaking, tend to want lots of lots of contacts in the event that they may need to call upon help at some stage. I think women focus more on the relationship which is obviously far more valuable. So it seems to be a case of men seeking quantity; women quality. Although my LinkedIn network is large, I expend a lot of energy on helping as many people as I can those who reach out to me for advice & input. Take it from me – if you want a big & effective network – give to others first!

Thanks again Karalyn,

James E

Megan Iemma June 23, 2013 at 4:06 am

Loved your blog post Karalyn.

I think often its perceived that if women go hard with networking, it’s asked who are they trying to impress. It’s not something that is talked about, or if it is it’s in whispered tones.

I love networking and always have (find it much easier to do so that make small talk at a party). I do seek quality in my networks, but love having a variety.

Carolyn Hyams June 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I consider myself a connected person, but for me, it’s about quality, rather than quantity when it comes to LinkedIn. Most of the time, I don’t seek out connections. However if I find someone I’d like to connect with, I have no problem reaching out to them, but there needs to be some relevance to the connection otherwise why bother? Not being in the top 100? No big deal. it’s not a competition for quantity and it’s also not a gender race.

Leah Gibbs June 23, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Great post Karalyn.

I am fairly connected on LinkedIn and I agree with Carolyn above it’s about the quality not the quantity. It’s all about engagement, interaction and discussion, not the numbers.

People reach out to me on LinkedIn even if I don’t know them, I do not go looking. Before I accept the connection, I always read their profile and if they are based in Australia or New Zealand and I feel we could network online together and have value to add to each other, I often accept.

For those with 30,000 contacts or more, I bet you that person would not have an clue who half of their connections were and that there would be no value at all in that relationship.

Blah Blah Blah..LION Networkers bore me

Karalyn Brown June 23, 2013 at 10:05 pm

I find this so curious, because 43% of LinkedIn’s users in Australia are women. I get the debate about whether it’s better to go for quantity over volume. I would assume that most of the top 100 are earlier adopters of LinkedIn. I wonder whether it means that women decided early on to keep their networks closer or were more cautious about jumping in. Is it the same for other social networks? Maybe not Pintrest?

Susan Wareham McGrath June 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

Hi KB

Great post.

I don’t have the answers, but to me it gets curiouser and curiouser when you look at these stats:

Top 10 most connected: 20% women
Top 20 most connected: 20% women
Top 100 most connected: 5% women

So if that trend were to continue, with around 225 million members on LI, the percentage of women in LI overall is statistically negative! 🙂

OK, I won’t give up my day job for a career in data analysis.

But seriously, my thoughts are it could be a combination of gender-based “quality vs quantity” decisions, the (general) tendency of women to be more hesitant to put themselves out there and the nature of early LI adopters.

I thought this extract from a post on May 7 by Mike O’Neill of http://www.integratedalliances.com was interesting:

“I was user #125,841 and that might or might not make me an early adopter. I have a number of friends in the first 10,000. They got an invitation from someone just as I did. They did not find LinkedIn on their own.”

So it does look as if the early adopters of LI were well networked to start with, placing them in an ideal space to grow their networks exponentially with the power of LinkedIn.

Cheers
Susan

Jessie Paul June 24, 2013 at 2:48 am

I have over 7000 contacts on LinkedIn. After crossing 6000 the performance of LI has significantly deteriorated – I can’t export my contacts, my inbox and address book are unavailable when I want them etc. Unlikely I am going to invest in adding more contacts there.

Kate Southam June 24, 2013 at 3:00 am

I suspect there are a number of things going on. I agree with Leah and Carolyn about quality over quantity. “Connection” has a different meaning. I also wonder if men see networking as a business thing – cast the net wide but only check out the fish when they are hungry. You also mentioned Karalyn that women want to carry out a lot of research before they network in the professional space – even though it comes so naturally on a social level. The same came be said for women going for jobs and promotions – they want to be 110% confident before making a move. The reasons women are not represented in greater numbers at the top are many and complex – and some of those reasons are beyond their control (unconscious bias, the way “merit” is judged) but some of it also comes down to not going for it or feeling vulnerable if they do. Or is that just me?

Emma Andrews June 24, 2013 at 4:34 am

Hi Karalyn,

Great article. I have tossed around the idea of open networking vs selective networking and what works for me. Personally I like to connect with people who share a common professional interest, or who might be interested in what I have to say. Then again if I was relying on LI to build business or become a thought leader, I’d want the biggest audience possible. I’m not sure gender has much to with it, probably more who has the time or inclination to build their networks. I’m definitely keen to see more women in the top 100, and applaude anyone who can achieve this.

Tim Tyrell-Smith June 24, 2013 at 5:29 am

Hi Karalyn –

It is a great question. First, let me say cheers to the women for holding back. I think it is shocking that there are this many people with over 30,000 connections.

If connecting with as many people as possible is truly of value, we should just go ahead and ask LinkedIn to save us the time and connect us all automatically. That way we can all say we have over X00 million connections on LinkedIn. And then start from scratch on another platform.

Here’s my belief: That 95% of connections on LinkedIn never get consummated. Pollination never occurs. And the larger social ecosystem on LinkedIn is left in the lurch.

Why fewer women? My theory is that they are more thoughtful and purposeful in their use of LinkedIn. No research to back me up, but that sounds right.

Donna Svei June 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Karalyn,

I don’t know the answer, but I love your question!

Large LinkedIn networks have distinct advantages. One example: LinkedIn appears to favor people with key word skills endorsements in key word search results. Given that only first level connections can endorse your skills, it benefits you to have more first level connections.

I don’t know why women don’t connect as aggressively as men do, but they would benefit from doing so.

Donna

Karalyn Brown June 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Thanks guys for the comments.

Kate, yes I do think there is a sense of vulnerability that women may have, and in our society there are really so few women at the top, that there is an enormous pressure on them – not just to do well, but people not wanting them to do well, also – as it challenges the status quo.

Donna, agreed there are big benefits of a big network, from a visibilty perspective and being found in searches. I like it also for the endless possibilties it presents in terms of learning about other people and the potential to reach out.

Tim, I do think that in business women are a bit more considered in networking. It’s funny the BNI research says that women were actually more successful as they were more targeted in their approach – perhaps that’s the same online as well.

Sonia Kokkalos June 24, 2013 at 8:48 pm

There will always be, in my view, differences with the way men and women interact and the types of networks they are a part of or choose to be a part of, hence the number of people they have within their networks whether it be online or in person. I believe women lean towards being more ‘subjective networkers’, whilst men lean towards being more ‘objective networkers’. But when considering the connections one has on LinkedIn, I take a slightly different view.

I view the connections one has on LinkedIn as more of a person’s ‘audience’ they have built, not so much the networking opportunities it may present. After all, LinkedIn is part of Social Media so building one’s audience is paramount to become an authority on a particular subject matter or field that you are aligned to. Then the number of connections shouldn’t really matter or how they were acquired. It’s how you communicate your worth to them and how to keep them engaged that matters.

Bronwyn Murphy June 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Hi Ms Brown
Thank you for the article. In my experience women network with people they know and have a familiar connection with. Open networking is not truly networking thats just scatter gun in order to get a name out there. Can anyone with over 1000 contacts really say that they are networks are are they just connected to a different type of phone book?
I agree with the quality V’s quantity comments.

Claire Stretch June 26, 2013 at 5:33 am

Thought inspiring read Karalyn – and the comment are interesting as well. I am only speak for myself as I don’t have the inner story on other’s linkedin motivation – for me it’s two fold. There’s a bit of die-hard English politeness, whereby if someone asks to connect with me I generally do so. When it comes to connecting with other myself, to date it’s been with people I’ve actually me IRL and then want to keep connected with.

I would imagine those with 1,000s of connections, connect without meeting first.

At the end of the day, a big part of this is the quality not quantity strategy. I’d rather have fewer, more real connections, than 1,000s of connections I don’t really know at all. I actually got in a bit of a mess with my twitter account through too much random connecting so not really knowing who’s who – which makes it lean towards ‘unsocial’ media.

And so to bedzzzzzz

Sean Fleming (@flemingsean) June 29, 2013 at 2:22 am

A lot of people (I’m one of them) question the value of LinkedIn.

Maybe the fact that there are only five women in the Top 100 is proof that women are doing it right.

Having said that, I introduced a female co-worker from Melbourne to LinkedIn a couple of years ago and she went from zero to 500+ connections within a month, thereby proving that it doesn’t matter what gender you are, some people treat networking like it’s a race to the top of a greasy pole. And boy are they wrong.

Johanna Baker-Dowdell July 3, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Karalyn, a very interesting question that I am looking forward to exploring more with you tomorrow in Real Chat with Nancy Georges.

I wonder if part of the answer may be that men are more aggressive in the way they approach networking and invite everyone they come in contact with in their professional dealings as well as responding to those who invite them to connect, while women tend to hold back and wait for people to send invitations rather than initiating that connection themselves. I know this is a very general response, but something I have noticed in my own social networking.

Simon Edmonston July 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Hey Karalyn, I have been pondering on this post for a few days now and trying to relate to my own Linkedin. I have only been on the site for a few months and started off by connecting to people I knew, then to some of their connections. When I got to about 150 I stopped, realising I had started to just randomly click anybody. I started to explore the groups and areas of my interest to get a feel for the site itself and hopefully create more meaningful connections.

In the last couple of months I have added about another 600 connections and I would say 95% of these have been requests by others. I rarely connect to other people unless I know them. I post mainly on TED group and have noticed when I show up in the top contributors list I see a spike in requests.

I have started to see a pattern in some of these people connecting to me themselves having a huge amount of 1st connections. There is no way of knowing whether they are popular for a reason.

It would be interesting if Linkedin had the same approach as Twitter. I am well aware I could easily have 10,000 1st connections on Linkedin with little work. Very easy to build up over a couple of years. On Twitter as you know it takes time and effort to get the followers. I never say no to a connection on Linkedin and always follow up with a personalised thanks for connecting.

I have also noticed my headline makes a difference. Everybody is a CEO or a manager of something. Anything with Jedi in the title and I get a ton of profile views and requests.

My feeling on why men need the connections is the same as why they need big cars.

I myself am more than happy with my little runaround.

No insecurities there 🙂

Jen Bennett June 14, 2014 at 5:50 am

LinkedIn exists to make money. The more activity you generate, the more ads they serve you

The more frustrated you get with slow service and veiled ‘who viewed your profile’ the more likely you are to pay the premium subscription

As both a shareholder and a premium subscriber, I’m conflicted. I want them to make money but feel it’s turning into middle management spam

The new feature comparing you to your network in terms of activity is a smart driver of traffic, and a sad indicator of professional narcissism.

As to the gender differences in connections – seems like a PR move to get women to up their game. To sell them more stuff via crappy ads.

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