A successful change agent or change driver recognizes the opportunity for change, identifies the best approach, and makes that change happen. But are women, who represent greater than 50% of the U.S. population according to the U.S. Census Bureau, being given the chance to drive positive changes for the future of our country?
Warren Buffet, the outspoken Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO, provides an insightful perspective. Back in May, he wrote an exclusive essay explaining his belief that women are key to America’s prosperity.
He starts by saying that “our country’s progress since 1776 has been mind-blowing, like nothing the world has ever seen.” He credits our political and economic system, saying it has unleashed human potential to an extraordinary degree—while utilizing only half of the country’s talent. In other words, women have been relegated to the sidelines.
Only in recent years have we begun to correct that problem. The “old boys’ networks” are still powerful in this country, and resistance is to be expected among the powerful when change challenges their self-interest. Whether talking about business, politics or even religion, who wants to double the number of competitors for top positions?
Buffet thinks that the biggest obstacle facing women of accomplishment these days, however, is that too many women continue to impose limitations on themselves, talking themselves out of achieving their potential.
Some older women still believe the myth—which has been ingrained in their teaching for decades—that men are superior at running businesses. But Buffet encourages them to “look behind the curtain” to discover that most powerful and seemingly self-assured males are not supermen after all.
Why does Buffet care so much about women gaining equality in the workplace? He said it’s not only ethics, but self-interest:
“No manager operates his or her plants at 80% efficiency when steps could be taken that would increase output. And no CEO wants male employees to be underutilized when improved training or working conditions would boost productivity. So take it one step further: If obvious benefits flow from helping the male component of the workforce achieve its potential, why in the world wouldn’t you want to include its counterpart?”
Buffet’s conclusion is that if America can learn to embrace and fully employ the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be. “We’ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. If you visualize what 100% can do, you’ll join me as an unbridled optimist about America’s future.”
What do you think about Warren Buffet’s opinions? What is the role of women in your company? We welcome you to comment and share your ideas.