International News

Asia/Africa: Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 women scheme

A $100 million (Rs.490 crore) programme to provide business courses to 10,000 women over the next five years will transform university teaching in the developing world, the scheme’s organiser has predicted. Goldman Sachs, which launched its ‘10,000 Women’ scheme in New York in March, has announced a string of partnerships between leading US and European business schools and institutions in countries including Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Egypt and Afghanistan.

In September while confirming the partnerships, Dina Habib Powell, Goldman Sachs’ global head of corporate engagement and a former US assistant secretary of state for education said: “The real legacy is the lack of capacity of management education in the developing world. (In) Africa, a continent of 900 million people, I believe there are about 2,600 quality MBA slots for women. The capacity is not there. Those two factors made us realise we needed partners — partners who are experts and able to help the developing countries train professors, write locally relevant case studies and improve capacity,” she added.

Twelve new partners were announced in late September, enough to enable the scheme to help more than 5,000 women, marking the halfway point in its bid to reach 10,000. The University of Oxford’s Said Business School will partner China’s Zhejiang University to provide courses for 500 women. The London Business School will pair up with the National Entrepreneurship Network in India, and the University of Cambridge will partner Camfed International in Zambia.

The programmes differ from traditional business education, says Powell. “MBA programmes last two years, they cost $60,000 (Rs.28.6 lakh) and they’re teaching things like derivatives. (These women) need to start with the business basics. They need to just understand how to write a business plan, how to access capital. We needed a specific programme.”

Therefore the model devised is a short-term, high-quality, management-specific programme which recognises that a businesswoman has many things going on in her life. “They need to be able to come on the weekends for a few months, maybe take an intensive course for several weeks,” says Powell.

The academics working most closely with the women, such as Peter Bamkole, director of the Centre for Enterprise Development at the Pan-African University of Nigeria, testify that the scheme has already had an impact. “I was able to change mindsets where the professors always teach,” says Dr. Bamkole. “I got real business people to teach. I got the professors to design the study programmes, but the teaching was done by business people.”

As well as helping individuals and institutions, the project will deliver long-term gains for Goldman Sachs. “Investing in business education for women is a very smart investment,” says Powell. “We believe we’re contributing to growing more stable and prosperous economies through (the women) as engines of growth, and there’s a tremendous yield on that return by way of the impacts that these women will have — the multiplier effect — on their societies. We view ourselves as very proud partners of these women. We’ll be cheering on the sidelines throughout their lives.”

(Excerpted and adapted from Times Higher Education Supplement)