Keep the needle focused on women, especially when the world is facing an economic crisis, Charlotte Keenan, Global Head, Goldman Sachs 10KW

In a conversation with HerStory, Charlotte Keenan, who leads the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women (GS 10KW) annual flagship programme, talks about women entrepreneurship in India and the need for similar programmes across the globe.

Keep the needle focused on women, especially when the world is facing an economic crisis, Charlotte Keenan, Global Head, Goldman Sachs 10KW

Tuesday May 31, 2022,

4 min Read

Goldman Sachs recently hosted the graduation ceremony for more than 400 women entrepreneurs from India who took part in its annual 10,000 Women (10KW) flagship programme organised in collaboration with IIM Bangalore. A marketplace on the occasion was hosted at the 150 ORR Goldman Sachs Bengaluru office on May 24, 2022, which showcased some of the businesses that were part of the programme.

The 2021-22 leg of the programme was held virtually in India during the pandemic. 

The flexible programme comprises 10 essential business courses providing critical tools across all aspects of the business—from leadership to negotiations, marketing, and sales. 

With practical education, interactive activities, boot camps, and instruction by educators from top business schools, the programme has reached more than 200,000 women across 200+ countries since it was introduced in 2008. In India, they have reached about 2,400 in-person programme participants and over 30,000 enrollments for the online programme, the largest globally. They have also raised and deployed more than $2 billion in investments globally to 144,000 women small and medium enterprises across 42 countries, including India.

In 2014, Goldman Sachs collaborated with the World Bank to facilitate women entrepreneurs involved in the programme with capital to run their businesses. 

In an interaction with YourStory, Charlotte Keenan, Global Head, GS 10KW, speaks about the programme and women entrepreneurs in India. Charlotte has been associated with Goldman Sachs since 2015 and currently heads the Office of Corporate Engagement - International Responsibilities, the 10,000 Small Businesses in the UK, and the 10,000 Women programme.

Goldman Sachs

(From L to R): Charlotte Keenan, head of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Program; Sunaina Harjai, Hats Off Accessories; Madhu Chandrika, EarthenSymphony; Gita Ramanan, Design Cafe; David Solomon, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs; Gunjan Samtani, Head of Goldman Sachs Services in India; Professor Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director of IIM Bangalore; and Gunjan Pai, Founder of Copylove

Edited excerpts from the interview:

HerStory (HS): How do you find women entrepreneurs to be a part of your programme?

Charlotte Keenan (CK): We have a set procedure, which involves both research and marketing. We read news articles and conduct interviews and research to identify women entrepreneurs. We try to understand their business, the team size, revenue (which varies from one country to another), and growth potential. 

HS: Is the programme limited only until the women entrepreneurs graduate?

CK: Not at all. In fact, once they join the programme, these women become a part of the GS family forever. We help them scale after their graduation, guide them through the challenges that come their way, and build a community of such women leaders. 

We are also working on launching an app to help these women leaders stay connected, help each other to grow, and create a community. Because being a CEO or a founder of a company can be a lonely job.

HS: What are the key things Goldman Sachs and you have observed or learnt from these women entrepreneurs?

CK: First, these are immensely talented and extraordinary women. They have the resilience and grit to grow their business. They just need a little guidance. Secondly, we as a team continue to learn from these women. There have been instances when some of the GS folks have walked into the programme thinking they know better than the entrepreneurs. But they have come out more enlightened. Third, and a personal note, is that this programme is a must for women leaders who can contribute significantly to the economy. 

It is very important to keep the needle focused on women, especially when the world is facing an economic crisis created by the pandemic and the wars. In such chaos, the cause for uplifting women can get lost. The programme is thus sacrosanct with this cause. 

HS: What are the challenges that GS overcomes while introducing the programme in different countries?

CK: We realised that while the problems faced by women entrepreneurs across the world are more or less similar, each country comes with its own challenges. Therefore, our partnerships with academic groups like that of IIMB are central to us. It helps us create a curriculum that is both global and ensures localisation.

HS: What are the future plans for the programme?

CK: We will continue to scale and reach out to more women entrepreneurs in India, help them access capital and scale while working on both online and offline models of the programme.

HS: What advice do you have for women leaders?

CK: Be confident in yourself and embrace your whole authentic self. When I was younger, I thought I had to conform to the workplace and mould myself accordingly. Today, the world is very different, and it is very important to bring your true and entire self to the workplace, irrespective of whether you are working in a big organisation or setting up your own business.

(This story has been updated to remove 'India' from the name of the firm and to correct Charlotte Keenan's designation)

Edited by Megha Reddy