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Wharton is joining forces with investment bank Goldman Sachs for a unique philanthropic mission.

Goldman Sachs' global initiative, '10,000 Women,' will provide short-term business education programs over the next five years to provide approximately 10,000 women in developing countries with the skills to become successful entrepreneurs.

The initiative also involves a number of other prominent institutions, including Columbia and Harvard Business Schools.

Wharton's role as a partner institution will be to undertake the training programs for women in predominantly Arabic-speaking regions -- which stretches from Morocco to Afghanistan - and to help local business schools in these countries improve the quality of their education.

"It's training the trainers," to ensure the sustainability of the entrepreneurship education in these countries even after the initiative has ended, said Wharton professor Mauro Guillen, the coordinator for the school's involvement in the initiative.

Content from Knowledge@Wharton, Wharton's online research journal, will be distributed to faculty in the partner business schools to help them organize classes and curricula, as well as to woman participants in the education program.

Women were targeted in the education program because research has shown that there is a large multiplier effect on income and overall well-being of people in developing countries when women actively participate in the labor force.

However, involving women in the economy is easier said than done.

Women participating in emerging markets, particularly those living in Arab countries, face the challenging obstacle of gender oppression and cultural barriers. Often, religious norms prevent women from even leaving the domestic quarters, Guillen said.

For example, the only way one woman from Afghanistan was able to work was to set up a business at home, he added.

In addition to the cultural obstacles, women also face the barrier of knowledge.

Some of the women participating in the initiative have received a high school education -- and even a college education in some instances. But running a business requires a whole new set of skills.

"These women have the drive, they have the motivation and they have the ideas," Guillen said. But lacking basic business knowledge in areas such as accounting and market research, women find themselves unable to overcome the challenges of moving beyond a one-person operation, he added.

Working with Goldman Sachs, Wharton will address this specific barrier through certificate programs which will provide women with professional leadership, management and entrepreneurial skills.

The larger goal of the initiative is "creating a core network of successful woman entrepreneurs," who can serve as mentors for aspiring businesswomen, Guillen said.

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