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Goldman Sachs Takes Corporate Philanthropy Global – Investments in Women Garner Exponential Returns

stock_pair_businesswomenIn less than four years, there will be 10,000 more women in the world with a business education. And according to Goldman, Sachs & Co., the benefits of that education will accrue to far more people than those directly receiving it. Indeed, Goldman hopes for widespread economic growth.

Goldman’s 10,000 Women project grew out of research that shows increasing the entrepreneurial and management expertise of women, especially in emerging economies, is a sure-fire way to reduce inequality and spread economic growth. Goldman’s senior leadership embraced the notion, and nearly two years ago, the company launched its 10,000 Women initiative. “Senior management believes this is the right investment at the right time,” said Noa Meyer, 10,000 Women Program Director. “Because of the potential return, investing in women is one of the smartest things you can do.”

Partnering with business schools around the world, Goldman identifies high-potential women who are already running businesses and provides them with an educational program, mentoring, and follow-up services to raise their skill level and increase their chances of success.

“While the number of women all over the world in the labor force has been increasing for some time,” Meyer noted, “they may not have access to the business training and education that can help them grow a company.” Goldman Sachs’ goal is to change that.

Just a year and a half into the five-year project, it has exceeded the company’s expectations. “We now have more than 60 partners in 18 countries,” Meyer said. “And the demand has been overwhelming.” Worldwide, acceptance rates are more competitive than most Ivy League MBA programs.

The early positive feedback goes beyond local demand for a good business education to include internal excitement and commitment to the program. In a firm that has long nurtured a culture of community service, the number of employees who want to serve as mentors and lecturers outstrips the capacity of the firm to handle them. “We just aren’t able to accommodate everyone who wants to help,” Meyer said. “That’s a wonderful problem to have.”

Another early indicator of success, the firm is learning that women who have gone through the program are spreading their knowledge. “These women have a deep desire to give back to their communities—they see themselves as representatives,” explained Meyer. “They want to share their success and their opportunities with others, so they go back and mentor other women.” In this way, the 10,000 Women project may result in a substantially greater impact than Goldman Sachs anticipated.

“Anecdotally, we find that woman’s strength in the household shifts as the result of having more economic leverage,” Meyer said. “Economic empowerment manifests itself in different ways depending on the culture, but it definitely has an impact.” She cited a Goldman follow-up study, the Power of the Purse, that showed spending habits change in countries where women are empowered economically—they spend more money on health care and education as opposed to items for their own consumption—which, in turn, begins to affect social equality.

Several Forté Foundation schools are among 10,000 Women’s many partners, including Columbia, Harvard, HEC, INSEAD, London Business School and Mills College. The schools provide assistance with identifying candidates and awarding scholarships to the program, as well as business instruction and mentoring. For the schools, the opportunity to participate in 10,000 Women is an extension of their own mission to bring the benefits of business education to a broad audience.

In choosing schools for partnerships, Goldman Sachs looked for the leading global institutions with experience working in the local markets the company was interested in serving. “These schools all have sophisticated and relevant programming,” she said. For instance, it was the London Business School’s collaboration with the National Entrepreneurship Network in India that caught the company’s attention. The school developed a training program for Indian faculty, which ensures quality and strengthens the underlying capacity to teach and support women entrepreneurs in India.

Goldman Sachs tapped the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business at Mills College as one of its first domestic partner because it was the first to design an MBA program specifically to prepare women for business leadership. With a student body that is 99 percent women and 68 percent women of color, Mills was the ideal setting to reach out to underserved areas of the United States.

“We’ve seen firsthand that Goldman Sachs is providing a far-reaching gift to educational institutions that are developing women as entrepreneurs and business leaders around the globe,” remarked Lokey Dean Nancy Thornborrow. “Our students have been amazed by the opportunities offered by this Goldman Sachs program.”

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