9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN32 Political Sociology

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Political Networks Building I, 2E10

Gendering Community Elite Structures

The research presented here studies gender differences within community elite structures, in a social network analytic framework. In any contemporary society women occupy merely a small minority of elite positions available, and female elites have often been found in a limited circle of institutional sectors. Furthermore, even the minority women who actually do successfully gain access to influential elite-positions are often assumed to have their factual influence circumscribed by mechanisms that render them marginalized and peripheral in male-dominated networks of informal influence-structures. Systematic evidence to support the latter view is however relatively scarce. The aim of the present study is to investigate the gender-dimension of community elite structures; from a perspective that juxtaposes female representation within the elite, with women's formal and informal structural positions in community decision-making networks. The study is empirically located in Sweden, a country characterized by a comparatively high proportion of elite positions in all major institutional sectors being held by women. The location therefore offers an optimal setting for empirical illumination of the relationship between women's formal representation and their informal access to decision making networks. The research draws upon data collected from a positional sample of community elites (n=298) in four strategically chosen Swedish municipalities. A wide variety of relational data on both formal and informal relations among the elites were solicited through personal interviews (83% response rate). The data was subsequently analysed with a broad selection of social network analytic tools. Results suggest that elite women in Sweden are not necessarily excluded from, or less central in the formal and informal networks of community decision-making than their male counterparts, although clearly gendered differences regarding male and female elite's positions within these networks are detectable.