Career Advice from the Women of Berkshire Hathaway

We’re all familiar with the genius of Warren Buffett. But what about the women who have helped to build his conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway? As early as the 1960s, Buffett was wise to the cultural disadvantages of women. “Wait,” he remarked, “until women realize they are the real slaves of the world.”

In Karen Linder’s new book, The Women of Berkshire Hathaway: Lessons from Warren Buffett’s Female CEOs and Directors, she profiles nine smart, talented women who contributed to the company’s famed success. Here are my favorite takeaways:

Just do it

“You sort of are formed by what you are engaged in. And so just gradually you get some confidence, and what that means is not that you’re going to be something else, but it means you can forget yourself and become engaged in what you are doing.”
Katharine Graham
Publisher, The Washington Post Company

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Make the rounds

“We were encouraged [at Kraft] to rotate through different departments and divisions to fully understand the company. I was fortunate to be given a lot of different experiences. I was constantly working hard and looking for the next opportunity I was willing to take on less glamorous assignments if I thought I could learn from them and be recognized for my contributions. Taking on assignments in which things aren’t working well is always an opportunity to shine if you get them running better.”
Marla Gottschalk
CEO, The Pampered Chef

Make it a learning experience

“It’s a long story, but . . .  in a political upheaval in the board room, I was ousted. And that was very, very difficult. But I’m not somebody who sits and says, ‘Woe is me,’ so I picked myself up, reflected on the situation, and tried to look at it as a learning experience. Then I started to figure out how to move forward.”
Beryl Raff
Chairman of the Board & CEO, Helzberg Diamond Shops

Only add value

“A board member has to be able to add some value somewhere. If it was never clear where I would add value, I wouldn’t want to be on a board, and I’m always looking at how I can add value.”
Charlotte Guyman
Director, Berkshire Hathaway

Press ‘pause’

“In every musical composition, there are notes and pauses, and the pauses are as important as the notes in the production of the entire piece. Now that I’m in a pause, I realize how much I really wanted and needed it.”
Susan Decker
Director, Berkshire Hathaway

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