Finding a job through social networks: differences between men and women

Priit Jeenas

Although Western societies have made considerable efforts to eliminate gender inequality, an unexplained wage gap between men and women still persists in Estonia, among other countries. One factor contributing to this disparity may be men’s and women’s unequal access to labour market information and different opportunities to apply for jobs, which also derive from social networks. The main objective of this paper is to assess the propensity of men and women in Estonia to use social networks when finding a job and the possible benefits of doing so. This was done using regression analysis on the Estonian Labour Force Survey data for the years 2000 to 2010. The results show that men living in Estonia are more likely to have found a job through social networks than women. However, neither male nor female job seekers who successfully received help from relatives, friends or acquaintances earned statistically significantly higher or lower wages than the others. The existence of any material advantage or disadvantage from social networking was therefore not proved. Nevertheless, the greater propensity of men to find jobs using social networks may indicate the greater utility of their social resources in the labour market when compared to women. Job search and application with the help of friends and acquaintances may offer significant savings in time and resources, and also provide more extensive information on job offers, a higher probability of being successful and a better fit between the worker and the post. Important factors which may hinder women’s social resources from becoming as useful include sexual segregation in the networks and organizations and also childbearing and rearing as a significant period in the lives of parents. The latter, which undoubtedly places a greater burden on women, may reduce their social capital even more.