Goldman, State Dept. team up to help women

A woman in a developing country running her own small business can face any number of obstacles: discrimination, limited access to funding and little education on how to manage the balance sheet of her company or win more customers.

To give these women a boost, Goldman Sachs and the State Department are teaming up to offer classes on the basics of business management to help these women drive economic growth in their communities.

The partnership, which will be announced Tuesday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Goldman’s chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, augments an existing program run by Goldman’s charitable arm that has so far educated more than 3,500 women in more than 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Rwanda and China.

In line with Clinton’s vow to make international women’s rights a signature issue under her watch, the State Department’s involvement will expand Goldman’s program, known as 10,000 Women, into more countries. The State Department already collaborates with the initiative in Pakistan.

“Initiatives like 10,000 Women invest in the economic empowerment of women to promote security, stability and prosperity around the globe,” Clinton said in a statement. “This new partnership with the Department of State will extend the reach of the program and provide individual women the means to build safer, stronger, families, communities and nations.”

Goldman began the program in March 2008 with $100 million and a five-year goal of helping 10,000 women become better entrepreneurs. Dina Habib Powell, global head of corporate engagement at Goldman Sachs, said the initiative is on track to meet its goal. Powell, a former State Department official who worked in the Bush administration, added that 70 percent of participants have increased their businesses’ revenues.

Women in the program apply to get crash courses in business management lasting five weeks to six months at universities that are partners in the program.

Divya Keshav, from Dehli, India, had no idea how to run her family’s struggling label-printing business when she took over the company in 2008. Keshav participated in a four-month training program through 10,000 Women and as a result she says her sales doubled last year.

“The program has had a wonderful effect on me,” said Keshav. “I’ve learned business skills that I lacked earlier.”

The program has other ties to the Obama administration through Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, who served as a lead consultant for the program before joining the White House. Sperling drew some heat from critics for getting paid $887,727 from Goldman for his advice on the charity.

The relationship between Washington and Goldman Sachs has a long history. The federal government has often tapped the firm’s executives for top policymaking posts. But the company’s standing inside the Beltway took a hit after it took a federal bailout in 2008 and faced questions about its activities in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Goldman’s charitable arm, known as Goldman Sachs Foundation, has assets of more than $550 million.

Jia Lynn Yang is a staff writer at The Washington Post who covers policy and business. Before joining the Post, she worked at Fortune magazine.
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