Do men and women generate the same benefits from using their social ties? This study addresses this question by examining how resources are allocated within social networks. Prior research has commonly attributed observed gender differences in network benefits to the tendency for women to be embedded in networks that are poorer in social and economic resources. Implicit in this explanation is that if women had access to more valuable networks they would receive similar benefits as do men. It remains unclear, however, whether men and women with the same opportunity to access resources through social ties generate equal benefits.
Using hand-collected data from organized business networks where entrepreneurs exchange information about potential new clients, this study leverages a unique opportunity to compare men and women with access to the same social capital. In this setting there are two types of potential new clients: other members in the group and the external contacts of other members. I find that women receive fewer connections to potential clients, but only in the form of the latter. These results suggest a new network mechanism for gender inequality — anticipatory audience bias — where expectations that a client, friend, or family member has a preference for men over women motivates actors to disproportionately favor men.