Unequal opportunities in the knowledge economy : A social network analysis of formal and informalnetworks
Abstract: A new capitalistic era known as the knowledge economy has emerged since the middle of the 20thcentury, identified by ‘knowledge-based work’ and ‘immaterial labor’ generating innovation inleading-edge sectors, and recognized as a driver for economic change and future growth. As aspatial consequence, the importance of regions as economic entities has increased. Where regionsoften are dependent on innovative activities to generate competitive advantage and prospect. Topromote a socially inclusive regional economic development, scholars stress the significance of addressing issues of gender, particularity in male-dominated occupations such as knowledge-intensive industries, where masculine cultures tend to be deeply rooted. However, the regional learning and innovation literature is criticized for being firm-centric, gender-blind and ignoringthe wider existence of the knowledge worker, thus reproducing patterns of gender constraintssuch as barriers of equal advancements, discriminatory practices and social exclusion. This thesisaims to address these ignored issues by conducting a social network analysis on formal andinformal network within firms in the knowledge economy, and examine how individual characteristic might affect a workers position within these networks. A case study of Umeå ICT-industry was carried out where intra-firm social networks were analyzed of 16 firms and 204 workers. The result from the analysis indicates that female knowledge worker tends to be sociallyexcluded within the informal network of these firms, while at the same time more dependent ona well-connected social position to be able to advance to a more influential position within firm’sformal networks. These findings support earlier claims that there is a need to incorporate a genderperspective into future research agendas as well as regional economic policymaking.
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