By Nick Erickson
As he addressed the United Nations at its headquarters Monday afternoon in New York, George Washington University School of Business (GWSB) Dean Anuj Mehrotra proudly stated to the global audience that GWSB has educated students from 183 countries over the past 30 years and implored fellow business schools to prioritize recruiting and empowering a diverse and inclusive community so classroom makeups aren’t so dissimilar to those at UN meetings.
Speaking at the fifth-annual Micro-, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSME) Day in a panel with fellow higher-education leaders from across the globe, Mehrotra stressed the significance of creating an equitable business education focused on entrepreneurship and exposure while showing how GW is supporting MSMEs achieve positive societal transformation.
It’s especially crucial now as these enterprises face hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other external factors, and Mehrotra outlined how GWSB is preparing its students for a future market where creativity through opportunity and collaboration will be of the utmost importance.
“Our vision and mission reflect our focus on innovation—to cultivate ethical, inclusive and entrepreneurial leaders that make a positive impact on the environment, society and governance locally and globally,” Mehrotra said.
MSME Day, started in 2016, aims to raise awareness of the contributions MSMEs have on the UN’s sustainable development goals. According to the UN website, MSMEs account for 90% of businesses, 60 to 70% of employment and 50% of GDP worldwide. They contribute to local and national economies and to sustaining livelihoods, especially among the working poor, women, youth and groups in vulnerable situations.
In the program’s introduction, GWSB Professor and Department of Management Deputy Chair Ayman El Tarabishy, who is also the president and CEO for the International Council for Small Business, noted that small businesses are more than ever in need of support, making the idea exchanging at MSME Day even more critical.
“Micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises hold our local and global economies together,” El Tarabishy said. “We must remember that movement is necessary if we want MSMEs to continue playing their important role.
“It is an urgent call to bring all stakeholders together to further help MSMEs.”
Seven different panels addressed the UN for MSME Day. Mehrotra joined other deans, provosts and professors discussing the role of education in supporting MSMEs achieve sustainable development goals.
Mehrotra laid out three actions as a testament to what business schools can do to empower MSMEs and to show that GW is answering that call.
It starts, he said, with increased access and equity. Mehrotra discussed elevating women, people of color and international entrepreneurs. He said that last academic year, GW enrolled the highest ever percentage of women in its full-time M.B.A. class at 57%. According to the Financial Times, that was tops in the United States and No. 2 globally, though Mehrotra noted the work left to be done as women-led enterprises face challenges such as lack of access to capital and networks.
He also spoke about GWSB’s study abroad opportunities and that they strive to create opportunities for students to earn credits with partner institutions around the world.
But fostering a diverse, inclusive business community is only part of the equation, he said. Business schools must also cultivate innovation, interdisciplinary and experimental education. Mehrotra cited a McKinsey report showing that while digital adoption is associated with an increase of productivity growth, MSMEs face implementation challenges that may decrease the impact of innovative technologies.
GWSB is countering that with its recent launch of a Bachelor of Science degree in entrepreneurship and innovation and a reimagined graduate curriculum to empower entrepreneurial students through stackable certificates in STEM areas.
Also focused on creating an educational ecosystem, Mehrotra referenced specialized student experiences such as GW’s New Venture Competition, the Summer Startup Accelerator and Mentors-in-Residence programs that connect students with experienced field professionals.
Partnerships and networking connect the first two actions together, he said. Mehrotra highlighted GW’s ELEVATE program, which is a partnership with the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development that aims to provide best-in-class training to minority-owned small businesses in the D.C. region.
Mehrotra also discussed the Capital Markets graduate certificate program, which includes six cohorts that trains future leaders who will help ensure that financial markets contribute to business and employment opportunity, innovation and sustainable economies around the world. GWSB is also partnered with Globant’s BeKindtech venture fund that provides real economic impact by supporting high-potential tech startup accelerators.
In his final example of partnership and connection, Mehrotra said GWSB has pledged to support the Tech for Good movement by assisting global startups looking for support in developing apps, products and platforms that are focused on mitigating the negative effects of technology.
Before turning it over to his colleagues from around the world, Mehrotra closed by emphasizing even more that business schools must embrace these three actions to advance MSMEs and thus stimulate economic and social growth in communities.