Warren Buffett: Companies should invest in women

On the same day he joins Twitter, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO calls for men in corporate America to help their female counterparts succeed.

By Jason Notte May 2, 2013 3:06PM
File photo of Warren Buffett on the NBC News' 'Today' show on November 27, 2012 (© Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)Warren Buffett's leap onto Twitter matters only if the people following him listen to what he has to say.


Lost amid all of Thursday's welcome tweets and all the minute-by-minute updates about how many followers Buffett had amassed -- 59,000 in an hour -- was an essay Buffett wrote the same day in Fortune imploring corporate America to help women succeed in the workplace. In the same essay, he also implored those women not to wait for help and to shed self-doubt on the way up the corporate ladder.


Granted, Buffett says all of this as the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a company that Calvert Investments called the least diverse of all S&P 100 companies in a report released in March. However, in the same month, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) moved to add New York investor Meryl Witmer to its board, making her the third woman of 13 board members. Investors will vote on her appointment at the company's annual meeting later this week.


Buffett, in two lines, summed up what's in it for companies and their male hierarchy if they help women advance:


"Fellow males, get onboard. The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be."


To answer the inevitable chorus of complaints about why gender in the workplace is still an issue, we'll remind folks that women in America's workforce are typically paid 22.6% less than their male counterparts in the same jobs and basically work 59 days for free each year as a result. According to the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, women make $434,000 less than men on average over the course of their careers.


That's not just at one point in their careers, but during their entire career. Congress' joint economic committee says women make $7,600 less than men immediately following graduation. That trend continues to the latter stages of their careers, when Catalyst says women make up just 6.2% of top earners -- which is exactly the point Buffett is trying to address. Though new legislation should close that gender pay gap, the Institute for Women's Policy Research says that won't happen until 2056 at this rate.


It's an issue because Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer still gets more attention for her telecommuting and maternity leave policies than for day-to-day changes within the company. It's because the number of women in reading circles discussing Facebook (FB) Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" rivals, if not outnumbers, the number of women serving as COOs.


It's an issue until all of the above isn't true, which is why Buffett used more than 140 characters to address it.


More on moneyNOW

128Comments
May 2, 2013 5:52PM
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Warren likes to talk the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk. Let's see...

1) He advocates giving women more opportunities, but his own company was criticized for doing the opposite.
2) He thinks the rich should pay more taxes, but he fights tooth and nail to minimize his tax bill.

I'm sure everything he spouts in the media is self-interest and/or the early onset of dementia. Meanwhile, I'm going to listen to the only investor that has my best interests in mind - me.
May 2, 2013 5:42PM
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Oh man...I love Buffet's music........Invest in Margarita.......use 20's........Wrong Buffet?.....Nevermind
May 2, 2013 5:28PM
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he wouldn't suggest it if he couldn't make money on it
May 2, 2013 9:35PM
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Buffett has become a PC buffoon who likes to see his name in print so he panders to the PC MSM.

 

Make a truly honest effort to hire the most competent people regardless of sex. Period!

 

May 2, 2013 11:25PM
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Totally agree - race, gender, national origin, etc. does not matter:  only talent, skill, and ATTITUDE.

 

May 2, 2013 9:03PM
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"Women have been and STILL ARE treated much like Minorities... There are still some (others) that just DON'T GET IT.."

 

The Civil Rights Act passed the year I went to Kindergarten. My whole life I was tempered by Equality as a key aspect of recruiting selecting training promotion credit decision, etc. I worked with women who achieved equality by being good at what they did. I have 3 daughters. All 3 excel at what they do. When I went to work for a bank, the first woman I worked for had manipulated her femininity to get whatever she wanted. The LAW helped me to not be victimized by her and breaking it severely helped her to get me out. I then worked for another woman in a bank. She did everything she could from the same play book the first woman used. Buffett needs a swift kick into his casket and an end to an era where we are plagued by billionaires. As for women... the ones who worked BESIDE me were mentors peers friends colleagues and champions. They were also paid the same rate I was. As for the banker chicks-- they were human garbage. The ones Buffett says need to lead are banker chicks. When women can hire men, be mentors peers friends colleagues and champions without specialized treatment cheating or committing crimes to get what they want, then there will be no reason why they wouldn't lead.

May 2, 2013 9:33PM
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The fraud continues:   "Women in America's workforce are typically paid 22.6% less than their male counterparts in the same job"  Actually, they are typically paid that much less FOR ALL FULL TIME JOBS ACROSS THE ECONOMY, not the SAME job.  Men suffer 98% of workplace deaths - women obviously aren't doing the same jobs as men.


Meanwhile, this isn't about equal treatment, but about preferences for women.  What else is new?
May 2, 2013 10:50PM
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This is a mixed statement.  There are some women who are doing the EXACT same job as a man and get paid less.  Male counterparts are being let go to enable corporate America to lower their payroll costs.  Just a slight reminder, that women did fill the men's jobs when they went off to war and did a dang good job.  I think fair pay for all workers is a necessity.  I'm in the age bracket where the more senior workers are let go to reduce salary and benefits for corporate America.  Women are now catching up with men in the heart attack arena due to high job stresses. There needs to be balance of mentor and new hire; men and women.  Everyone has something to offer if they have a good work ethic.
May 2, 2013 10:58PM
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I was a union carpenter since 1988 and I have NEVER been on a job where a woman carpenter, making the same union wages I was, outworked men. If a woman can out work a man physically, it is the exception, one out of five thousand, not the rule. I do not see where the whole black argument comes into play with this article. Completely separate subjects. Oh and I am part native American and the fact is, we lost those wars and throughout world history there have been winners of war and losers also.

I am just saying in all those years of construction, I NEVER saw a woman work as had as men and yet they were paid the same money.

May 3, 2013 12:17AM
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Yeah Warren go ahead and put a deserving White Male out of work to fill a quota by a hiring a lesser talented woman because she is a female. That will solve all the worlds problems. Nothing works until we do away with all quotas and hire the most talented people regardless of skin color or sex. I think Warren just likes to see his comments in print.
May 3, 2013 2:15AM
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the family structure has been destroyed, and created latch-key kids, daycare costs through the roof, problem children an epidemic numbers because both parents are at work and noone has the time to put in quality time with their kids, men feeling emasculated because their wives have taken their place of being a provider and head of the household-and his answer is hire more women??? I'm sure his wife had the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom, many women don't, but it's as much our fault as it is men's for being greedy, and materialistic, and envious, and forever trying to keep up with the Joneses!!
May 2, 2013 5:10PM
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Buffet is a self-supporting talking head. He says what he needs to say to help his investments because millions will hear what he says and take note. He doesn't care if you believe or don't believe. He cares that you hear it and that it alters your perception.

He wants to get his followers to artificially react and move money. When they see the trend, they act before others even have a chance to see what they see. Buffet is a figurehead that herds sheep.

The fact that he thinks we males need to be told that women are useful members of society makes me laugh. It means that at some point in his life he didn't believe it.
May 2, 2013 11:44PM
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Women earn less on average because their method of career choice is typically "What fulfills me?", whereas men typically ask "What pays the most?".  Women make less because they choose lower paying careers that are more personal to them; nothing at all wrong with that btw, we could learn from that philosphy and be happier. 

And the black argument is ridiculous - differences between two races is negligible, whereas differences between males and females can be, in particular cases, huge. 

It's time to put these kind of reductive, simplistic statistics like "77 cents for the SAME job" out to pasture if we truly want a society that respects women.

 

May 3, 2013 12:30AM
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Worked for one of Buffets companies in Real Estate. Constantly put down by his band of 30 something men managers for being older and a woman. Buffet should practice what he preaches. He is just a lucky old goat, that invested well when times were good....and is part of the good ol' boys club himself. He basically is full of BS.
May 2, 2013 6:34PM
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I think it's best to take Warren with a "grain of salt" or for "what he is."

 

I see no reason to condemn him or kiss his azz...He's just an Old Guy, that has done very well in investments for about 50-60 years...Along with Charlie Munger.

I guess his Daughter has written stories or books about him and his ways..NEVER READ THEM.

And he just puts out his own sage advice or thoughts occassionally..

That's what you do when you get old, part of life.

May 2, 2013 10:02PM
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I'd like to know the facts behind that statistic.  I have never had a job where a woman doing the exact same thing I was for the same amount of time was paid less than I was per hour.  Many have been paid less than me over time because they refused to work as many hours as I did, or missed more days of work than I did BY THEIR OWN CHOICE.  I'm sure women as a group make less over their working carreers, because THEY CHOOSE TO DO OTHER THINGS instead of work.  But in my experience I have never seen a woman get paid less per hour for doing the same job as a man.
May 2, 2013 10:28PM
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Dan...Just sayin' but you might have worked around "union shops"...??

Many women that do and have the same tenure and job description...Do get paid the SAME in most cases??

As far as the longer hours, overtime and such that is a chosen disparity in or about wages..

I always get a kick about women not working in the Home....They only wish they had it made like a man that only worked for 40 hours a week at a job "off the farm", providing or considering they had children they were raising also?

And as far as a woman not working the OT, they may have wanted to get home to the 2nd. job..?

I know today many husbands share a lot more in those duties.

But that wasn't always the case...Sense youse up, get me another beer, Honey.

May 2, 2013 11:50PM
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What about all minorities too.  I am an US born Asian, I consider myself an American-Asian, which hit a glass ceiling and was crushed when it fell on me.  Training other and seeing them being mentored pass me still hurts to this day.  It is too late for me, but Warren, why do you not speak for us too?
May 3, 2013 1:40AM
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Warren Buffet is beginning to lose it.  He made a ton of money and now thinks everyone else should pay higher taxes now.  I think people like him should have to pay retroactive taxes. 
May 2, 2013 8:58PM
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Women are and will always be below a man. Why? They complain, they blame others for their short comings and when they have kids we all are suppose to bow to them. I have worked with many women in high positions and 90% of them are painful to work for. Moody, backstabbers, will blame the person not in the room for their MAJOR mistakes. I say hire the RIGHT PERSON for the job because as a business owner I don't want to go out of business due to a bad employee.

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