Investing in women is one of the keys to a prosperous future. The engine of every economy is the private sector, and supporting and empowering women through education and business training are what is needed for the global economy to grow.
Yet, women in impoverished areas are often underserved and have limited access to education, business or management training, and entrepreneurial networks.
10,000 Women Initiative
In March of 1998, Goldman Sachs founded the 10,000 Women Initiative, which committed $100 million to providing business and management education and training, links to capital, mentoring and networking to 10,000 women all around the globe. It is the largest investment in the economic empowerment of women globally. The initiative is coordinated in local communities all over the world, in over 20 countries such as Liberia, India, Kenya, and Egypt, by partnering with a network of more than 80 academic and Non-Governmental Organizations.
During Fortune’s Most Powerful Women conference, which took place on October 1st and 2nd, Goldman Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein presented 10,000 Women Initiative alum Madhu Chandrika with the Goldman Sachs & Fortune Global Women Leaders Award.
Chandrika, an Indian native, is the founder and CEO of Earthen Symphony, a design studio based in Bangalore. Through the 10,000 Women Initiative, Chandrika was able to get both the funding and training she needed to turn her business into a success. She, along with the other two women presented with this award, Precious Simba and Catherine Nyambala, share a $50,000 prize that they’ll use to grow their businesses and pay it forward by helping other local women succeed as they have.
Another 10,000 Women alum was recently featured on the powerful PBS two-part documentary “Half the Sky,” which is based on the bestselling book of the same name written by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Kabeh Sumbo, a Liberian woman who began an oil business with just one gallon of oil, is a perfect example of the power of 10,000 Women can have in changing a woman’s life and bettering her community.
From 10,000 Women, Kabeh was able to receive a microfinance loan, which allowed her to grow her business through buying several tins of oil. She currently exports her palm oil to US markets. Now that her business is a success, she is able to send all her children to school, owns her own home, has several warehouses, has seven employees, and provides incomes for 65 people. You can see a video of Kabeh’s inspirational here, and also in Part II of “Half the Sky.”
Investing in Women
Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf, who recently attended the graduation ceremony for the most recent group of Liberian women who completed the the 10,000 Women Program, including Kabeh Sumbo, said:
“To you, the 29 graduates of the 10,000 Women Program, you are powerful builders of the future. You are the new generation of good managers and responsible leaders who help those with less to achieve more. Pass on your skills. Teach others to be successful. You are a new generation of Liberian women who will be the role models to the thousands of young girls who need to believe that they can shape their own destiny. Liberia depends on this new generation of entrepreneurs and business people that will lift our country.”
Empowering women through education and mentoring is not just a feel-good project. It drives global economic growth. As Blankfein said at the launch of the initiative, “We not only chase GDP around the globe, we try to create it.”
Because markets outside the United States already account for more than half of Goldman’s revenue, and emerging markets are a very strong area for growth, this important initiative creates a win-win for the women it helps and for the global economy.
Educating women has wide-reaching benefits. According to Dina Powell, Managing Director, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and global head of Corporate Engagement:
“Ninety percent of income that women gain is reinvested into society, into educating their children, into healthcare programs…It’s a very interesting moment in this issue of investing in women and in women’s empowerment globally.”
When women are encouraged to participate in the formal economies of their society, the economy grows. By providing access to capital for women to begin businesses, the 10,000 Women Initiative works at a micro level to help the spurn GDP growth.
As Dina Powell told Charlie Rose:
“This is a huge economic imperative. If we want, in this global recession, to help create more jobs around the world and ensure more economic stability, women are a very smart investment.”
Goldman’s 10,000 Women Initiative does amazing work supporting women in business around the globe. Five years into the program, they’ve changed the lives of 5,000 for the better, with 5,000 still to go. I applaud their commitment to empowering women and strengthening the global economy through their grassroots efforts.