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Shattering Glass Ceilings: Abigail Wood ’17

A summer research project tackles the gender pay gap and asks why more women aren’t CEOs. 

While performing research for her Summer Fellows project, Abi Wood ’17 came across a shocking piece of information. 

“There are more men named John running S&P 500 companies than women,” says Wood, an applied economics major from Galway, N.Y. “It’s a little unfathomable.” 

Wood is trying to uncover some answers about the gender gap problem in the United States and is taking it a step further with her summer research, A Macroeconomic Approach to Gender Disparities in Hiring at the CEO Level

“I’m looking at differences between the number of women and men hired as CEOs,” Wood says. “Most of the data that exists is at the micro level, so it looks at an individual firm, for example. I’m taking historic data from the 1970s and 1980s and looking at the number of women who were earning MBAs and comparing that to the number of women who are currently CEOs to see if the theoretical applicant pool is being hired or not.” 

Wood, who is performing her research with Eric Gaus, an assistant professor of business and economics at Ursinus, says given the number of women with advanced degrees, more should be leading their own companies. 

“In terms of the highest glass ceilings that women are still trying to break, becoming a CEO is still one of them,” she says. “Why aren’t we getting those top positions?” 

As someone who expects to enter the workforce soon and hopefully become a leader early on, Wood says that the gender wage gap can be discouraging, but she’s committed to helping to set a new standard.  

“When I look at the estimated salary for any position, it might not be what I’m going to get because of the gender that I am, so it makes me stop and think, ‘What can I do to prevent these things from happening?’” 

As for her summer research opportunity, Wood says it has been a significant academic experience. 

“It’s liberating to be able to focus on one area of study and to attack it from all of the angles that I want to,” she says. “This project is very much data driven, and even though I’m reading a lot of economic data, it’s supplemented a lot by other areas like psychology, for example. That’s not something you get a lot of times by just taking classes. I’ve been able to piece together different fields to solve this problem.”