Empowered Women Empower Economies

New studies show that educating and investing in women improves GDP.

03.11.11 10:11 PM ET

Divya Keshav, owner of Krishna Printernational in India, took over her family's label-printing company in 2008—with no experience running a business. But a four-month training program funded by Goldman Sachs, called 10,000 Women, helped her acquire basic skills such as negotiating, networking and managing a balance sheet. Within two years, she doubled the company's annual revenue.

But Divya and her fellow local alumni from the 10,000 Women program aren't content to just be successful businesswomen. They're also determined to empower the women in their communities. Divya has begun training and hiring women and instituted a three-month paid maternity leave, which is rare in India's private sector. She's also working with her alumni network to build an orphanage.

This kind of community engagement exemplifies the mission of 10,000 Women, and was the subject of a far-reaching discussion on Friday at a panel called "Global Women on the Rise," featuring Dina Habib Powell of Goldman Sachs, Zainab Salbi, of Women for Women International, and Gillian Tett, U.S. managing editor of the Financial Times. Since Goldman Sachs started the program in 2008 under the leadership of Powell, 3,500 women from 20 different countries have received business training, and 70 percent of them were able to boost the revenue of their companies. The Goldman program, which is the largest private sector investment in history for women's economic empowerment, will spend $100 million on the initiative over the next five years.

Zainab, Dina, and Divya and the women whose lives they've touched are on the cusp of a vast cultural shift in which women are earning the recognition that their advancement in business benefits not only their communities, but their entire nations. No country that inhibits women's participation in business can reach its economic potential.