Leveraging Technology to Expand Opportunities for Female Entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs


Research shows that investing in female entrepreneurs can have powerful multiplier effects as women tend to reinvest the majority of their incomes back into their families and communities — further developing their economies, society and boosting GDP growth. We sat down with John F.W. Rogers, Chairman of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, who explained how recent changes to the firm’s 10,000 Women program represent an inflection point in corporate philanthropy.

What do you see as the benefits of investing in female entrepreneurship?

John F.W. Rogers: Through the firm’s 10,000 Women program — now in its 10th year — we’ve seen first-hand how providing women with access to business education, networks and capital can have a real impact on economic growth and provide tangible benefits to families and communities. Thousands of women have gone through the in-person business education program, and the results are truly compelling: 70 percent of graduates report higher revenues in their business; 60 percent add new jobs; and 9 out of 10 participants go on to mentor other women — causing a ripple effect in their communities, leading to more widespread opportunity.

Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs launched an online curriculum for its 10,000 Women program, a global initiative which fosters economic growth by providing female entrepreneurs with business education, networks and capital. What prompted the recent move to launch the online curriculum on Coursera?

JFWR: What we’ve learned over the past decade or so is that the field of corporate philanthropy is constantly evolving, and we need to evolve as well. When we launched 10,000 Women in 2008, entrepreneurship education, especially for women, was still in its nascent stages. It has now undergone an incredible shift in mindset, becoming embedded in many of the universities we have worked with over the years. As a society, we’ve also seen digital connectivity become fundamental to how we work and live, and wanted to ensure that we are leveraging the increase in mobile device usage, internet access and the engagement with online learning. As our firm focuses on leveraging technology, we wanted to make this program no exception. By partnering with Coursera, we’re able to expand entrepreneurship training globally, democratizing access to business education on a global scale, through a digitally delivered curriculum. This free, interactive 12-week course — which is fully funded by the Goldman Sachs Foundation — is targeted to women-owned small businesses in developing economies. In short, we are able to expand 10,000 Women to reach those entrepreneurs we haven’t been able to before. This is a question of opportunity, not capability.

What are some of the other hurdles that women entrepreneurs face, and what have you done to keep the momentum going now that GS has graduated its 10,000th woman from the program?

JFWR: As we spoke with our alumnae of the program, it was clear that we had an opportunity to further help women take their businesses to the next level by focusing on access to credit. Through our ongoing partnership with the International Finance Corporation, the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility, which was launched in 2014, reached $1 billion in commitments, over 40 percent above the original target. IFC’s own research estimated that as many as 70 percent of women-owned small to medium enterprises in developing countries are unserved or underserved by financial institutions. The WEOF, which has a strong presence in some of the world’s poorest and conflict-afflicted emerging markets, was created to help address that barrier by providing lines of credit and financial incentives to the financial institutions to encourage lending to women-owned businesses.

As Chairman of the Foundation, how have you seen corporate giving evolve over the years?

JFWR: While the notion of “giving back” has long been a part of the firm’s DNA as a partnership, we first codified our commitment as a “corporate philanthropist” by establishing the Foundation in 1999. But 10 years in, we had an existential moment where we, as a firm, decided to change course by committing to providing the same level of selectivity, rigor and measurement to our philanthropy efforts that we routinely apply to our business endeavors. As a result, we recast the Foundation with a structure and mission to focus on defined areas for strategic investing — resulting in programs such as 10,000 Women, 10,000 Small Businesses and Goldman Sachs Gives. We’re also cognizant that the government and nonprofits are themselves financially strained and no longer in positions to be the primary purveyor of philanthropic programs. More than ever, we believe we are at an inflection for the future of philanthropy where corporations are playing a much broader role on a global scale — and in a more responsible way — to bring the power of innovation to strategic partnerships.

Read this great Interview on BRIEFINGS from Goldman Sachs

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