Women leadership in India via microfinance

Guest post by Cynthia Sánchez (UW English major, graduating in 2011)

I used to believe microfinance pertained only to those in the banking industry. However, I’ve discovered this is not the case. Microfinance can be utilized by many banks, but also individuals seeking to help others. I learned microfinance does more than lend money. It helps people save, build their resources and reduce their vulnerability.

Microfinance repayment gathering in India
Microfinance repayment gathering in India

Meeting with Grameen Bank in Bangalore, India allowed me to witness the difference the bank makes by giving 97% of their loans to women while they also strive to educate the next generation. Our meeting with Grameen Bank began by attending a repayment meeting. We arrived at the gathering location—encountering a few goats along the way—and entered an open space. A group of women sat leg-crossed chanting the sixteen decisions, a set of values, followed by the recitation of a vow. This was the way they commenced meetings. They welcomed us with smiles and requests to sit next to them, tapping the floor beside them to signal open spots. The women wore saris and a few cradled their children. We took our seats barefoot and watched each member sign in. Their glass and golden bangles slid up and down, synchronized to the movement of their arms.

The session was quick. The women were prepared with the money stacked in their hands, like a deck of cards. They all sat attentive waiting to hear their name to pass the payment to the lender. The money circulated, hand in hand, until it reached him. He counted the amount and recorded the amount in the borrower record sheet which contained the borrower’s picture, her name, the names of her children and spouse and dates of all the past payments.

We learned from the women that with the money they borrowed they had paid for their children’s education, started businesses, resolved personal issues and emergencies and also had the opportunity to expand their knowledge of business. Obtaining a loan from Grameen Bank had empowered them to decide what was best for their families and their future. Women who were once considered “uncredit-worthy” are now beginning to move away from poverty in a country where 41% of its population is still “unbanked”—demonstrating the difference a small loan can make.

Cynthia is a University of Washington student participant in the Foster School of Business study tour during fall quarter 2010. The trip, focused on Women Leadership in India, was organized by Foster faculty member Cate Goethals.

Business women in India and America share hope

Guest post by Emily Gerloff (UW business major, graduating in 2011)

“Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.” -Mahatma Gandhi

I was told that India is life-changing.  After hearing this on several occasions, I remember thinking to myself: What a strange concept. How can a country be life-changing?

After spending a month on the Half the Sky Exploration Seminar via the UW Foster School of Business, I am still unable to express exactly how India changed my life, but I know with absolute certainty that it did.

Emily (far right) sits with Indian women at a microfinance repayment gathering.
Emily (far right) sits with Indian women at a microfinance repayment gathering.

During the micro-lending meetings I expected to see poor, impoverished women with sob stories capable of making me instantaneously empty my pockets. I was surprised and relieved to find it was nothing like what I had imagined. These women did not have an ounce of desperation in their voices as they told their stories. They are an absolute testament to the power of hope and determination.  They live their lives with an innate sense of duty and purpose I can only compare to an American’s sense of equality and freedom.

Another surprise was how closely the lives of these women parallel my own. The micro-loans they receive are similar to the loans that fund my education.  I come from an underprivileged family (by American standards) and would be unable to attend college if it weren’t for the grants and loans provided to me by the government. Although I am occasionally jealous of my fellow students who will graduate with zero debt, it doesn’t change the fact that I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to better my life. I don’t think I am any less deserving of an education just because I was born into a family that couldn’t pay for one. This is a similar stance these women take regarding the micro-loans they receive. They possess gratitude and a humble belief that they deserve the right to prove their worth.

India changed my life.  I have seen first-hand the power of hope and determination and won’t deny myself the chance to see how far my own hope and determination will take me.

Emily is a University of Washington student participant in the Foster School of Business study tour during fall quarter 2010. The trip, focused on Women Leadership in India, was organized by Foster faculty member Cate Goethals.

Expanding cosmos—women in leadership study tour

Guest post by Melanie Sharpe, Foster MBA 2011 with a global business focus

BananaLeafIn the pre-trip brief just hours before we left for India, our professor Cate Goethals made a preparatory comment I’ll always remember as I weave my way through the world: “Becoming cosmopolitan means expanding and pushing the current boundaries and edges of your world.”

The trip to India expanded my cosmos in that very way. It exposed me to a diverse array of Indian leaders that redefined my perspective of business leadership as a woman—an aspect of business school that is largely overlooked and one I admittedly had not taken the time to consider prior to the transformative trip.

Inspiring women entrepreneurs

We encountered a colorful gamut of inspiring women. From workaholic bankers to avant-garde filmmakers to powerful lawyers and wealthy philanthropists to arguably the most influential female spiritual guru in the world to rural tree harvesters—all incredibly ambitious and driven women who seemed to have something very profound in common: They all seemed to be working to uplift others around them.

Call it social entrepreneurship or call it a compulsion to help better their community or family. Sometimes this innate desire compelled them to work 16-hour days to allow their fatherless children to have a better future. Sometimes that internal murmur told them that funding clean water was the only way to ensure the success of future generations of Indians. Sometimes that calling told them to hold and convey love to thousands of people everyday. In each instance, the evidence of that desire to give was palpable and tremendously inspiring.

TajThe pinnacle of the trip was hearing Rohini Nilekani, wife of the Infosys founder, speak at her clean water non-profit, Arghyam. Her profound statement: “Your generation no longer has the luxury of pessimism” was galvanizing. No longer can we absentmindedly guzzle water from plastic bottles or live in first-world luxury flushing away our waste with fresh water without considering the ramifications to the earth or other members of the world community. Her CEO Sunita Nadhamuni was an example of such awareness. Nadhamuni and her husband had reinvented the American business school dream of Silicon Valley wealth, prominent management positions and a constant search for “more” by transitioning their careers to work that directly helped communities of people have access to clean water.

Globally interconnected economy

The trip to India opened my world to the interconnectedness of the global economy. Imagine Dharavi: Asia’s largest slum, prominently featured in the blockbuster film “Slumdog Millionaire” as an impenetrable, crime-filled, filthy dystopia. The reality? The living conditions were certainly difficult: On average there is 1 toilet per 1,500 people! But the families inside the neat and tidy (albeit tiny) apartments were hardworking, entrepreneurial and contributing to global economic epicenters of recycling and clothes dyeing. In fact, many of the raw materials that we consume in the United States are sourced straight from Dharavi.

I left India transformed. The trip confirmed what I had suspected for my own career path: My own compulsion to serve was an innate calling that could be aligned with both business ideals and women’s leadership. Arriving at this realization completed the goal of the trip. My cosmos is expanded forever.

Melanie is an MBA student participant in the University of Washington Foster School of Business study tour during fall quarter 2010. The trip, focused on Women Leadership in India, was organized by Foster faculty member Cate Goethals.

EMBA and Entrepreneurs and Small Business

Not all students in the Foster Executive MBA Program work for large corporations. Our curriculum, format and structure also benefits small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to increase their business acumen, leadership skills and  learn to think more strategically. Entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Executive MBA Program also report a major return on investment.

If you are an entrepreneur, an Executive MBA provides comprehensive business knowledge and the skills to:

• Develop innovative and entrepreneurial solutions
• Look at business opportunities in a new way
• Learn to think beyond personal experience and skills

What a business owner says about EMBA

Cheryl PetersonCheryl Peterson
Class of 2009
Pacific NW Commodities, Inc. – Gig Harbor

Running a small business, I oversee all of the responsibilities from filing quarterly taxes, recordkeeping, and planning future strategy such as deciding when to grow and if to diversify.  I now have more tools in determining the future of my company.

When I joined the EMB Program I had been running my own business for 14 years.  I felt my skills were “rusty” and I was missing the stimulation of having colleagues to learn from and share information.  I wanted two things from the program:  first, to obtain the skills and resources to continue running a profitable business; and second, to feel more secure in knowing I could re-enter the workforce if necessary and be competitive. I chose the North America Program because it was easier for me to dedicate five days a month in one block rather than being in and out of town every week for the regional program.  Also, the North America program allowed me to feel like I still had “a life” three weeks out of the month to plan in advance for travel, meetings and home responsibilities. You really cannot prepare for the intensity of the program.  You simply have to dive in and know that you will arrive at the other end in twenty two months. I started the EMBA thinking I would simply fit the program into my life.  In reality, I had to fit my life into the program.

Background: Cheryl’s company is a wholesale commodities business that specializes in the industry of liquid fats and oils. As a small business owner, she oversees all facets of operation from safety and quality control to contract negotiation and practical accounting. Cheryl has a BA in Political Science from the University of Puget Sound.

EMBA and Not for Profit Organizations

At the Foster School of Business, we believe executives in the not-for-profit sector require the same high-level leadership skills, business knowledge and global perspective as executives in corporations.

While graduate MBA programs with a total non-profit focus may be right for many people, the Executive MBA from the Foster School offers highly motivated executives:

  • Opportunity to learn from and share your perspective with accomplished professionals from a range of industries
  • Obtain the level of financial, operational, and strategic skills required in today’s competitive, volatile economic environment
  • Gain Leadership skills and a broad global perspective essential for working  with your employees, boards of directors and corporations in the private sector
  • If you ever decide to move into the private sector, you will have a broad perspective, sophisticated knowledge, and an Executive MBA with clout

We also know that our students in the corporate arena benefit from and appreciate the perspective provided by their colleagues from the non-profit sector.

What a not-for-profit organization executive says about EMBA

Herb BoneHerbert Bone
Class of 2009
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Being in the Program gave me the skills to help my organization continue to achieve its mission oriented goals by using tools that for-profit organizations employ.

Coming from a not-for-profit background, I was not very familiar with the various driving forces that for-profit companies encounter and how they position to obtain a competitive advantage. I am now aware of many different ways of viewing a situation and seeing how a company can exploit it to their advantage, given the people within the organization, the structure of the organization, or the products they produce. During our budgeting cycle, I focused on making senior leaders aware that we have to make difficult choices and cannot fund all of the areas that we would like. I was better able to communicate different values to our leaders than I would have before taking the Program.

One of the reasons I selected UW’s EMBA Program was because over the past 15 years, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center sponsored many employees to UW’s EMBA. They spoke very highly of the program, and I saw how the program helped them grow and develop more skills.

The Program’s team approach was very beneficial because I had not been exposed to many of the subjects in the program and learned from my teammates. Our team consisted of an accountant (me), a business economist, a marketing director, a public relations director, an operations director and an information technology analyst.  The diversity in skills and viewpoints of my teammates helped me acquire new management tools and exposed me to the issues encountered by for-profit businesses.

Background: Herb has BA degrees in both Psychology and Business Administration (Accounting) from the University of Washington.  He has worked at the Hutchinson Research Center for 18 years and for the previous six years, audited and consulted for the healthcare industry, primarily for not-for-profit organizations.

EMBA and Healthcare Professionals

If you’re in the healthcare industry, understanding and mastering the language of business can open the door to new opportunities. Healthcare professionals who build their business knowledge and skills are rewarded with new leadership opportunities. Applying what they learn in the classroom, they improve organizational performance and patient care as well. From accounting to operations to management theory, the ability to leverage clinical expertise with a formal business education gives tomorrow’s healthcare leader a competitive edge.

Is 2014 the year you take control of your future as a manager and leader in healthcare? Find out if the Foster Executive MBA is right for you. Contact us to start the conversation.

What a healthcare professional says about EMBA

Sandy MelzerSanford Melzer, M.D.
Class of 2001
Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning and Business Development
Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center

The Executive MBA Program helped me develop a much expanded set of business skills that became a real advantage in my work and allowed me to successfully seek promotion. Professionally, being in the Program enhanced my understanding of finance and accounting and brought a higher level of rigor to our business planning processes. With these skills, I was able to offer a much more integrated clinical and business management planning and implementation methodology. On a personal level, the Program increased my skills and confidence. It helped me advance professionally, achieve promotion, and opened opportunities for senior management roles at other organizations. I was the only physician in the group and one of the more senior (title and age-wise) people.

EMBA and Career Military

Earning an Executive MBA is a great way to enhance your military career or build a bridge to a civilian career if you plan to transition out of the military.  Military candidates bring a strong background in leadership and personnel management to the EMBA Program, and their experience in these areas is valued by faculty and fellow students.  While polishing your skills in these areas, you will also gain exposure to core business disciplines, including accounting, finance and marketing.  Learning the language of business from an executive perspective will increase your effectiveness in the military, and it can be a critical factor in making a smooth transition to civilian employment if that is your goal.  In the UW Foster EMBA, you will not only learn the language of business, but learn how the key concepts are applied in business settings at a practical level.  You will also gain insights from, and build relationships with, fellow students and EMBA alumni, giving you a valuable network of experienced business professionals.

What a military officer says about EMBA

William PolaMajor William Pola
Class of 2011
US Army Reserve

I’ve wanted to go to grad school for 20 plus years. Qualifying for the new post-9/11 GI Bill after my second tour in Iraq provided the financial means to do it. That and the support of my employer… were integral in my ability to attend. As far as the MBA itself, I plan on working outside the military shortly after I finish the program and an MBA is a great calling card for civilian businesses that beats any amount of military experience.