American business legend Warren Buffett thinks the nation’s “secret sauce” isn’t just one ingredient short—it’s missing half the recipe.
In his first-ever social interview and essay about women in the workplace, Buffett claims that as successful as America has been, it did so using just half the country’s talent. For the most part, women—“whatever their abilities”—have been underutilized, discriminated against and relegated to the sidelines.
Female leadership is a hot topic these days, with prominent executives like Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg making daily headlines. But these women aren’t the norm, as statistics confirm the majority of business leaders and managers are still men, and women represent just 16 percent of all directors at S&P companies (despite findings that women score higher in leadership competency).
Fortunately, barriers to women are beginning to break down, says Buffett. At his own company, Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett says he can’t afford to have any kind of discriminatory blacklist. “We’re not looking for big names,” he said, “We’re looking for big brains . . . It makes a great deal of a difference what kind of a person they are, but sex doesn’t make a difference.”
Buffett reiterated that point when a young investment student in his interview audience asked how she could stand out and gain respect in the workplace. Buffett replied that work hard and a successful record would speak for itself. “[People] won’t care about your gender if they think you can make them a lot of money,” he said.
For women who want to work, Buffett hopes they go out and crush the remaining “funhouse mirrors” placed in front of them by society. Though many women choose to work in the home, Buffett is afraid remaining stigmatisms telling women they can’t run a business as well as a man can still be damaging for women, as well as American society and progress.
And to the men, Buffett assures that women in the workplace only helps males and businesses succeed even more. “Get onboard,” he said. “The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be.”