Leadership

Warren Buffett on the #MeToo movement: Women ‘make me optimistic about America’

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, with wife Susan and daughter Susan at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in 1997.
Mark Peterson | Getty Images
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, with wife Susan and daughter Susan at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in 1997.

Billionaire investing mogul Warren Buffett has a new message for the employers of America about women in the workforce in the wake of the #MeToo movement: Don't mess this up.

"We've got some very good women managers. The truth is that good managers are scarce, talent is always rare and you better use every bit of it that you can find," Buffett tells Yahoo Finance in an interview released today.

"That's certainly the way I've felt all my life," the Berkshire Hathaway CEO adds.

In light of the #MeToo movement, Buffett says men have a great role to play in making sure women advance in their careers, in business and the economy. Although society has come a long way since a half-century ago, Buffett recalls a time when women were kept out of the workforce and predominantly told to depend on marriage as their path to livelihood.

"I have two sisters that are absolutely smart as I am and better personalities and they were born around my time of 1930," Buffett says. "They were told, 'Marry early and marry well.'"

"That was the unseen message. I mean, nobody ever said it that way. So, I have seen half of the United States' talent basically put off to the side," Buffett adds.

A change that would make Buffett hopeful for women in the workforce took place soon after: Following World War II, women's participation in the U.S. labor force rose from 32.7 percent in 1948 to 56.8 percent in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Yet Buffett admitted he once had his own shortcomings in empowering women. At the White House's first United States of Women Summit in 2016, Buffett confessed that he only thought to put a woman on the Berkshire Hathaway board in 2003 — nearly 40 years after taking over the company — by the suggestion of his wife Susie.

"I knew it the moment my wife said it, but the idea had not gone through my head," Buffett said, according to a Forbes article. Since then, Buffett said he has advocated for more women to join not only his company's board but all other areas of business.

While in 2013, Buffett argued that "women are a major reason we will do so well" in an essay for Fortune Magazine, he also warned that the great "enemy of change" lives in "the ingrained attitudes of those who simply can't imagine a world different from the one they've lived in."

Still, as more women continue to succeed in different industries, Buffett holds tight to his positive outlook for women in the workforce.

"It's one of the things that makes me optimistic about America because when I look at what we have accomplished using half our talent for a couple of centuries, and now I think of doubling the talent that is effectively employed — or at least has the chance to be — it makes me very optimistic about this country," Buffett says.

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