Investing in the Power of Women

Goldman Sachs 10K Women Entrepreneurs

What happens when you give women entrepreneurs in emerging economies access to mentors, management training, business education and networking support?

That was the mission of the 10,000 Women initiative, launched in 2008 by the Goldman Sachs Foundation: to educate women entrepreneurs in emerging economies. In 2013, the program enrolled its 10,000th woman. By 18 months after graduation, participants had increased revenues by an average of 480 percent and increased the number of employees by 144 percent.

Those findings and more are reported in Investing in the Power of Women: Progress Report on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative, developed by Babson College. The results of the program support the idea that training and education for women entrepreneurs positively affects emerging economies by increasing revenues and creating jobs, expanding women’s contributions to their community and informing their leadership styles.

Other key takeaways include:

Women can be exceptional entrepreneurs across a diverse array of country and cultural contexts.

“Women grew their businesses dramatically in terms of both revenues and employees. . . . 10,000 Women participants achieved business growth despite having lower levels of education and significantly higher levels of household responsibilities. While 61% of the 10,000 Women entrepreneurs have at least some university-level education, most do not have a bachelor’s degree and are managing households with an average of 3.7 members.”

10,000 Women helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses and develop their business acumen

“By 18 months after graduation, 68.5 percent of the women increased revenues, and the average growth across all participants was 480.1 percent. Job creation was also significant, with the typical participant more than doubling the size of her workforce. . . .

“In addition to dramatic improvements in business performance, the women’s confidence in their leadership skills rose significantly as well. Within 18 months of completing the program, the percentage of participants who reported being confident or highly confident in making difficult decisions increased by 23 percent, in their selling and communication skills by 13 percent, and in their negotiation skills by 21 percent. This confidence enhances the ability of these women to make strategic decisions that ultimately result in revenue growth and job creation.”

Mentoring, advising and networks are highly valued in the growth process.

“Upon entering the program, only about half of the women had a mentor or business advisor, but after six months this number rose to nearly 75 percent. Some 89 percent of these women agreed or strongly agreed that having a mentor helped them grow their businesses. Networking with classmates, especially face-to-face, also had perceived benefits in terms of growth.”

Women entrepreneurs grow their businesses despite a lack of external financing

Their “growth is financed largely through retained earnings and internal sources. Our analysis shows that growth-oriented women entrepreneurs need external capital but usually do not apply for it. Many women indicated that they didn’t apply due to the challenges of navigating the application process or their perceptions of risk and the likelihood of success. Still others reported that loan terms or collateral requirements were unfavorable. Among those that applied for external funding, however, there was a very high likelihood of approval, demonstrating that female entrepreneurs like the 10,000 Women graduates are creditworthy.”

While the report focuses specifically on its impact on women entrepreneurs in Brazil, China and Nigeria, it resonates here in the States as well. What lessons can we pull from 10,000K and how can it inform practice here at home?

Read the full report: Power of Women: Progress Report on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative.