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Business Education for Women in Developing Economies

Posted By Nicole Zefran, Wednesday, May 14, 2014
The Financial Times recently published an article about women in business from the developing world, looking at the quality and accessibility of business education available to them. The article, written by Sarah Murray, features three business women in developing countries who used different executive education programs to acquire the business skills and knowledge needed to improve their businesses. Two of the women chose programs from two of our member schools: the Indian School of Business short executive education program that was developed in partnership with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative and Babson College's Entrepreneurship Boot Camp. 

These kinds of courses are out of reach for many female entrepreneurs from developing countries because of fees, travel costs and time away from their companies. Cultural barriers hinder the development of women entrepreneurs in developing countries. I have included some excerpts from the article below depicting different factors affecting women in business in the developing world.

In some regions, business skills are only part of what female entrepreneurs need – it can be difficult for women to become accepted as businesspeople at all. In the Middle East and north Africa, fewer than one-third of early-stage entrepreneurs are women, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, compiled by Babson. Even once they have broken through cultural barriers and created a business, women may find it hard to see themselves as leaders.

“One of the most important things someone could get out of an executive course is confidence – because women can sometimes hold themselves back,” says Linda Rottenberg, co-founder and chief executive of Endeavor. “Confidence building translates into people thinking bigger about their business.” Often women are “necessity entrepreneurs” – their decision driven by circumstances – rather than “opportunity entrepreneurs”, says Elaine Eisenman, dean of executive education at Babson College. “They are the sole support for their family and don’t set out to become entrepreneurs.”

Some argue that for these women what is needed is not formal classroom training but on-demand content accessed via mobile devices.

Our CEO, Guy Pfeffermann, argues that making programs and content available online or via mobile phones will make it easier for women in business to access executive education courses/programs. 

“I’m not sure the standard executive education programme is what I’d focus on,” says Guy Pfeffermann, founder and chief executive of the Global Business School Network, a non-profit that supports management education in the developing world. “The main issue in terms of scaling up business education for women is to make it easy for extra-busy women to absorb – and even two days at a school may be too much.”

The African Management Initiative, which GBSN helped develop, is doing exactly this. 

The African Management Initiative is working with business schools to develop online and mobile content for regions with low bandwidth. Participants support each other through virtual communities, and online training is supplemented with face-to-face workshops to make content available from top African institutions.

“We’re currently targeting both men and women but we’re thinking about a course designed specifically for women at some stage,” says Rebecca Harrison, the programme director. She adds that there is likely to be a community for women entrepreneurs on the social learning platform under development.

Pfeffermann believes online courses that can be accessed anywhere may prove the most useful tools for female entrepreneurs. “Women have no time, and it’s worse in developing countries, where it’s hard to get things done and women spend a lot of time stuck in traffic,” he says. “If you can reach them there [with mobile technology], then you’re on to something.”

>> Click here to read the full article

Nicole Zefran is the Network Assistant at the Global Business School Network 

Tags:  developing world  entrepreneurs  executive education  MOOCs  online courses  women in business 

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