Institutions join effort to give women a rich return

Business school partners will tailor management courses for developing world, writes Hannah Fearn

October 2, 2008

A $100 million (£53 million) 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 London last month to confirm 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 higher quality and 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."

There was also a lack of locally relevant teaching material, she said.

"Those two factors made us realise we needed partners - partners that were experts and able to help the developing countries train professors, write locally relevant case studies and improve capacity.

"We realised that to build the highest-quality academic programming would require investing in each of the countries where we wanted to provide the education for the women. That meant investing in the education institutions there."

Twelve new partners were announced late last month, enough to enable the scheme to help more than 5,000 women, marking the half-way 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, Ms Powell said. "MBAs last two years, they cost $60,000 and they're teaching things like derivatives. (These women) need to start with the business basics." She added: "They need to just understand how to write a business plan, how to access capital. We needed a specific programme.

"Our model is the short-term, high-quality, management-specific programme that recognises that a businesswoman has many, 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."

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 the mindset where the professors always teach," Dr Bamkole said. "I got real business people to teach. I got the professors to design the study, but the teaching was done by business people."

As well as helping the individuals and institutions concerned, the project will deliver long-term gains for Goldman Sachs.

"Investing in business education for women is a very smart investment," Ms Powell said. "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."

She added: "We view ourselves as very proud partners of these women. We'll be cheering on the sidelines throughout their lives."

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