Closing the Network Gap

September 26, 2019

At LinkedIn, we believe that two people with equal talent should have equal access to opportunity. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. 

We’ve all heard that “who you know” matters, and research proves that’s true. More than 70% of professionals get hired at companies where they already have a connection. And on LinkedIn, applicants who are referred to a job by a current employee are nine times more likely to get hired. 

In other words, networks matter a lot. But, like opportunity, they are not distributed equally and are built over time. In fact, there are three key factors that contribute: 

  • Where you grow up. A member in a zip code with a median income over $100K is nearly 3x more likely to have a stronger network than a member in a lower-income zip code

  • Where you go to school. A member at a top school is nearly 2x more likely to have a strong network

  • Where you work. A member who works at a Top Company is almost 2x more likely to have a strong network

We call this difference the network gap. The reality is that where you grow up, where you go to school, and where you work can give you a 12x advantage in gaining access to opportunity.

What we are doing about it

We at LinkedIn have a unique opportunity to help close the network gap by focusing on solutions in at least three areas – technology, programs, and people. First, through our technology, by measuring the unintended consequences of every new product or feature we build. We do this by asking, “Does this feature increase or decrease inequality among our members?” 

Second is through company-led apprenticeship programs that create opportunities for people with non-traditional backgrounds. At LinkedIn, we have introduced programs like Reach, Ramp, and Unlock, to train and hire talent for careers in engineering, recruiting, and sales. 

Third is through each of us. Together, we can make strides toward closing the network gap by reaching out to someone outside our own network.

Take the Plus One Pledge

Last year, I started keeping track of the informational interviews I was doing. I realized that almost every one of my meetings were with people who looked exactly like me: white women with four-year college degrees who were already in my network. The irony was not lost on me. Although I spend my days encouraging others to close the network gap, here I was unintentionally contributing to it. I made a commitment that, before helping another person who looked just like me, I would help someone outside my network. This commitment became the Plus One Pledge.

Earlier this year, we asked our employees to take the Plus One Pledge and intentionally share their time, talent, and connections with someone outside their network. Their response was greater than we could have imagined: more than 60 percent of our employees took the pledge.

During his keynote today at Talent Connect, our CEO Jeff Weiner talked about the network gap and encouraged people to take the Plus One Pledge. With roughly 151 million workers across the country, imagine what could happen if each of us committed to opening doors for people outside our networks. Even if only 10 percent committed to taking the Plus One Pledge, more than 15 million people would be connected to opportunity. 

If you choose to take the Plus One Pledge, share your story on LinkedIn with the hashtag #PlusOnePledge. Together, we can help build strong networks and increase access to opportunity around the world.