Men Often Falling Stars, Women Continue Shining Brightly. Why?
In February’s Harvard Business Review is a follow-up article stirring a bit of a backlash among men not taking the time to read. The controversy? About four years ago Boris Groysberg published an article (The Risky Business of Hiring Stars) noting that for most companies hiring away a “star”, the star’s performance often plunges accompanied by a dip in stock price. For 46% of hired-away stars, performance plunged 20% or more, and didn’t return even after five years. Now Groysberg has found a pattern in the exceptions to the rule: when the stars are women.
I typically find statements of “women this” and “men that” to be divisive, simplistic, and generally wrong. But this one is interesting. Really it’s just Darwinism.
The study primarily used analysts for its population because stars, performance and transfers between firms are all readily trackable. Even if you aren’t intimately familiar with this industry, you probably realize it’s a pretty sexist environment. The initial study found that most stars aren’t successful in their new environment because much of what made them successful was their network and other supporting systems at the old firm. In most cases they couldn’t take it with them (notably lift-outs were more successfully). Successful female analysts, on the other hand, often can’t get ”in” to the internal network. From the locker room to the fact that we just naturally tend to like people like ourselves, in this environment it’s just much harder for women to build the internal network. So most star female analysts build their success primarily on an external network. What that means is that the infrastructure supporting their success moves with them, translating to a much higher rate of continued star performance and a much lower cost without the need to also buy and move the supporting infrastructure.
Even for those rare women who achieve star analyst status there is a downside. What makes them successful as a star analyst, the external network, does not support success when they transition into management. The women who succeed in that transition are those who leverage their star status to build the internal network they’ll need to support future success.