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Goldman Sachs at CGI: Women Offer the "Highest ROI"

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That's what Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs (GS), told us today. That providing business and management education to women in developing and emerging economies meets a "great need" for "enormous [investment] returns" and provides a "wide open area for us [GS] to go." The firm's goal of helping 10,000 women is just the beginning, he says.

goldman sachs 10,000 womenGS's CSR investment in 10,000 women has the key ingredients for a successful CSR program: alignment with company goals and objectives, research and metrics to demonstrate need and progress, partnerships and alliances, employee engagement, and leadership from the CEO.

I have spent 16 hours at CGI, more than half of them interviewing C-suite corporate executives, always asking, "How is your corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative in the interest of shareholders, and how does your board of directors feel about it?" In my posts from CGI, I will share their perspectives on this matter.

To give some background on the case for investing in women, according to former President Bill Clinton, who opened this morning's session, "Women perform 66 percent of the world's work and produce 50 percent of the food, yet earn only 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property." Furthermore, based on GS's research, "Female education is a key source of support for long-term economic growth."

goldman sachs graduation indiaGS's 10,000 Women initiative fosters economic development by providing high-quality management and business education, wrap-around services, and access to capital for underserved women entrepreneurs. The initiative involves more than 60 of the world's leading academic and nonprofit institutions which are teaching in 16 countries that include Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, and Kenya.

Blankfein elaborated on GS's interests in the 10,000 Women initiative. In addition to promoting economic development and increasing the firm's reputation, the program has tremendous value as a "recruitment and retention tool. We lose people to public service in the middle of their careers. This initiative makes people feel more complete and fulfilled. People and reputation. We are fiduciaries to manage the firm for the long haul." Blankfein also commented on how engaged employees are in the mentoring component of the 10,000 Women initiative.

goldman sach graduation indiaLater in the day, Dina Habib Powell, a Managing Director, GS, introduced me to Ayo Megpobe, a woman from Lagos, Nigeria who runs a catering business. Megpobe described how she grew her company after she participated in the 10,000 women program. Starting her business all alone, she now employs seven employees, has increased revenues by 500%, and serves corporate clients.

My posts from CGI will feature companies with CSR models that are integral to the corporate strategy, and CEO-led.