As soon as investment bank Goldman Sachs invited the Wharton School to participate in a new global initiative intended to help women in developing countries, Wharton Dean Thomas Robertson accepted—and put his faculty and staff to work on a project that could pay dividends, worldwide, for years to come.
The Women Entrepreneurship Education Initiative aims to provide business and management education to 10,000 underserved women in developing and emerging markets. Funded with a $100 million grant from Goldman Sachs, the program will over the next five years bring together business schools, development organizations, and professionals to create flexible academic programs as well as degree programs for these women, who can then pass on the lessons they’ve learned to others.
“The minute Dean Robertson heard about it, he said, ‘We’ve got to join this initiative,’” says Mauro Guillen, professor of management and sociology and director of the Joseph H. Lauder Institute for Management & International Studies. “One of his goals here is to turn the school into a force for good in the world, so he jumped on the idea right away.”
The Women Entrepreneurship Education Initiative was created after Goldman Sachs research showed that the more women who participate in a nation’s economy, the more likely that economy is to flourish. The program will work through its university partners to offer participants a Certificate of Professional Development for Women Entrepreneurs, providing them with the essential business skills and knowledge to build and lead successful businesses. Meanwhile, development organizations will use Goldman Sachs support to conduct research about the economic and education challenges young women face in developing nations.
Wharton’s Aresty Institute of Executive Education will design key portions of the education program, then work with partner schools, including the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India, to deliver it. Meanwhile, Wharton will leverage its highly successful online journal, Knowledge@Wharton, to coordinate classroom sessions, workshops and distance learning programs. “Some might think that 10,000 women, on a global scale, may not make that much of a difference,” says Guillen. “But our hope is that those 10,000 women will become mentors for other women … and sustain that effort over time.
“Research also shows us that you can have more of a multiplier effect if you train women. And if women do well, then countries do well.”
Originally published April 10, 2008.