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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues
News & Media
Jun 25, 2020

My Honors Thesis Journey: A Kenan Scholars Perspective

By Abby Staker, Kenan Scholar Class of 2020

The senior honors thesis process was definitely one to remember! When I first walked into Kenan-Flagler Business School three years ago, I would have never imagined writing a senior thesis. However, thanks to the Kenan Scholars program, this outlook took a complete turn for the better. The Kenan Scholars program encouraged me to push my limits and pursue a task I would have previously never considered. In addition to providing the necessary tools to complete my honors thesis, Dr. Kim Allen, Director of the Kenan Scholars program, connected me with Kenan-Flagler faculty and community mentors who were invaluable to the completion of my thesis and my experience as a Kenan Scholar. Kenan-Flagler faculty, Dr. Maryann Feldman and Dr. Patricia Harms, assisted in helping me successfully complete the thesis process. My mentors, Martin Sather and Kate Simpson, are two Chapel Hill business leaders who influenced me and helped the entire thesis journey through encouragement and knowledge.

My research focused on the gender-funding gap within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Recent studies highlight females’ positive impact within the business world. However, females lag behind their male counterparts in funding accumulation. Previous research identified three primary causes to this discrepancy: (1) lack of females in the financial capital industry, (2) implicit bias, and (3) female-versus male-owned company characteristics and owner attitudes. What had not been addressed, however, was an analysis of the industries pursued by females versus males. My study identified and attempted to understand underlying causes in gender funding differences based on industry. My findings indicate (1) industry does not exhibit a significant role in gender funding differences, (2) implicit bias continues to plague females, and (3) females are underrepresented across all industry lines. Females receive fewer investment dollars than their male counterparts, appearing to directly correlate to the limited number of females entering the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

With my thesis focused on the gender funding gap, Kate Simpson’s role in the venture capital space proved invaluable to obtaining a greater understanding of the reasons for the discrepancy in funding. From providing me an internship opportunity to connections and insights within the business world, I cannot say enough about what the Board of Mentors resource has meant to me as a Kenan Scholar. Overall, the task of writing a senior thesis seemed insurmountable when I first became a Kenan Scholar. However, with the exceptional faculty guidance and community mentors, I achieved one of my proudest accomplishments in my undergraduate endeavors. I am forever thankful to Dr. Allen and for the Kenan Scholars program providing me these opportunities.

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