Skip to main content

Undergraduate Spotlight

The Posner Research Program gives rising Weinberg College sophomores the opportunity to engage in research projects under the guidance of Northwestern faculty members during the summer after their first year.  Students present their research at an end-of-summer symposium.

Economics student Wilma Tay was matched with Professor James Hornsten in the summer of 2021.  Learn more about Wilma, her research and Professor Hornsten’s assessment of the project. 

Q&A with 2021 Posner Fellow Wilma Tay

Where are you from? I am from Accra, Ghana.

Why did you choose Northwestern for college? I chose Northwestern because I was impressed by the various resources available for research like the Undergraduate Research Grant as well as the campus diversity and opportunity to immerse myself in various cultures. 

What is your major(s)? I am an Economics major considering a double major in Psychology or Computer Science.

How did you hear about the Posner program? I heard about the Posner Program through the Arch Scholars Program and Quest+, and I had a meeting with my counselor who told me more about Posner.

How were you matched with Professor Hornsten? The Posner coordinators matched me with Professor Hornsten who had previously mentored other scholars.

Describe your research project and what you learned. My research aimed to understand whether having more female leaders would lead to better socio-economic outcomes for other females. Since we decided to approach this topic from the corporate perspective, our female leaders were board members and CEOs. We used a sample of 81 Fortune 500 companies and compared maternity policies, ESG scores, board gender diversity and company gender diversity of male-run firms to those female-run ones. We discovered that female run companies offer more weeks of maternity leave overall and more paid weeks. Additionally, female run companies seem more committed to reducing climate change and having better company leadership. Overall, male and female run companies seem to be equally beneficial to the general society. However, female-run companies better address the needs and challenges of women employees.

Your research focused on female leaders. Are there any female leaders you admire? I deeply admire Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Christine Lagarde.

Do you plan to continue to do research on this topic or others? I plan to explore this topic with other positions of leadership and welfare measures and to hopefully research other topics.

What are you hobbies/interests/extracurriculars? I love reading mysteries and thrillers, as well as baking, singing and exploring Chicago.

Professor Hornsten’s Assessment:

After taking Professor Hernandez-Saborit’s seminar on why gender matters in economics, Wilma was bursting with research ideas, and she quickly convinced me that it would be interesting to study whether having women in leadership positions generated better outcomes for their female constituencies. Wilma worked hard using economic tools to explain how women in power raise aspirations, confront biases, build networks, and better represent women’s needs. After listing numerous positions of power and outcomes good for women, she decided to focus on women serving on corporate boards of directors or as chief executive officers, and then explored whether female-led firms offered better maternity leave policies or scored better on environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. Throughout the eight-week project, I was repeatedly impressed by Wilma’s dedication, work ethic, and ability to cheerfully navigate research obstacles. When I would ask Wilma to look into a handful of firms, she would examine dozens, and when some of her results were surprising or disappointing, we had great discussions about the business of research. Her engrossing final presentation did not do justice to the sheer amount of work she did, and I am excited to see what else she accomplishes in the next few years! 

back to newsletter