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The Women of Berkshire Hathaway: Lessons from Warren Buffett's Female CEOs and Directors Hardcover – May 8, 2012
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From the Inside Flap
Although women continue to make up only a small minority of CEOs and board members at major companies, there has been a marked increase in the number of female business leaders in recent years. Nowhere is that more evident than among Berkshire Hathaway's holdings, and The Women of Berkshire Hathaway: Lessons from Warren Buffett's Female CEOs and Directors presents an in-depth look at the women who have risen to the top in a decidedly male-centric industry.
An influx of female leadership over the past few years has invigorated Berkshire Hathaway with new energy and refreshing insights. The Women of Berkshire Hathaway offers a unique look into the lives of these remarkable individuals, as well as a valuable overview of the changing role of women in big business today.
Bringing together the trials and successes of Berkshire's four female CEOsup from just one a decade agoand five other incredible women who have profoundly shaped the company's success through their hard work and business savvy, this collection of stories spans generations, nations, and industries. From Rose Blumkin, who left Eastern Europe for America in 1917 and later founded the legendary Nebraska Furniture Mart, to Susan Decker, the youngest member of Berkshire's board of directors in the company's history, the book tells the tales of some of the business world's greatest pioneers.
Following the diverse, difficult paths these women took to become pillars of the business community, the book is a truly inspirational read. Exploring how they worked with Buffett himself, how they balanced their personal and professional lives, and how slowly but surely they worked to shatter the glass ceiling, The Women of Berkshire Hathaway is an amazing insight into the wisdom and bravery of nine women who refused to let the status quo get in the way of their success.
From the Back Cover
Praise for The Women of Berkshire Hathaway
"It's never easy to be a woman in a male-dominated profession, but the women of Berkshire provide valuable guidance for ambitious women at every stage of their careers. This is a perfect book for your daughter, your friend, your colleague, or your protégé."
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Founding President, Center for Talent Innovation, and author of Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women Are the Solution
"A uniquely compelling look at the lives of the successful women who work with Warren Buffett. The Women of Berkshire Hathaway is a must-read for all future leaders in this new era of businessboth men and women! This book inspired me to start my own business!"
Amanda Kimball, author of 2011 UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders
"This book is a collection of stories about the 'women of Berkshire.' All are women that my father respects and admiresbecause they are good managers and good people. I've had the great privilege of knowing all of the women in this book. These are stories for anyone interested in business, management, entrepreneurship, or just plain human drama."From the Foreword by Susie Buffett, Chair of the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and the Sherwood Foundation
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It was a real pleasure to read about Berkshire Hathaway and other corporations that function with high standards of integrity. We hear so much of greedy executives bleeding companies dry - leaving employees and investors in the ruins. None of that goes on here. I knew that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were involved in many humanitarian organizations but did not realize how positively it reflected on their businesses and corporate cultures. There is much to admire about the women executives who are so vitally important to them.
Each woman and the circumstances leading to her success is different. There is no single plan of success, but the tips are sincere and valuable. The author, Karen Linder, writes with authority gained from personal experience. She ran her own company which she started in Omaha and has now organized a second one. In the spirit of integrity exemplified by the women and men in this book I want to disclose that I have known Karen for many years through our mutual association in laboratory science.
I love how each of the women were able to use their God-given strengths and talents, specifically their high focus on people, on their journey to success -- not the tyrant women we are sometimes told we have to be to "make it" in the business world.
Nobody questions Buffett's financial and investment acumen, but fewer may be aware of his feminism: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead author Sheryl Sandberg, in a recent San Francisco interview with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, quoted his "gracious" acknowledgement of historical lack of gender parity in business: "I was competing against only 50% of society." Championing well run businesses--whatever their gender provenance--means Buffett has welcomed several women into BH's august ranks, and Linder closely details their careers and management approaches.
Katharine Graham, about whom much has been written elsewhere, comprises Linder's penultimate collection of portraits, but comparatively lesser-known businesswomen provide eye-opening reading, starting with Rose Blumkin, an illiterate with savant arithmetical and business skills, who was a "brilliant salesperson" but "terribly abusive of her employees." How the "laidback, even-tempered" Buffett dealt with the "hypercritical and ruthless" founder of the Nebraska Furniture Mart, makes for compelling reading--even if Blumkin's "management style" is cringe-inducing.
Other portraits include Doris Christopher and Marla Gottschalk of direct seller The Pampered Chef (high-quality kitchen tools), Beryl Raff (Helzberg Diamond Shops), Charlotte Guyman (former Microsoft manager), and Susan Decker (former Yahoo! president). Guyman and Decker were two females out of 12 BH directors when the book was written; Meryl Witmer of Eagle Capital was named the third female board member in March of 2013.
Those following the tangle of journalism, social media, and finance will enjoy the chapter on Cathy Baron Tamraz. Now CEO, she was hired by Business Wire founder Lorry I. Lokey, who, like Buffett, backs his egalitarian pronouncements with tangible support. Lokey's feminism--"I have this crazy idea that women are as good as men"--is evident not only in his promoting Tamraz to the top slot, but by his $30-million gift to the women's college, Mills (whose B-school is now named for him). Tamraz has more than returned Lokey's confidence: her 'cold call' letter to Warren Buffet resulted in Buffet's acquisition of the firm.
Another detailed portrait is of CEO Susan Jacques, who runs Borsheim's, which is "second only to Tiffany's in terms of the range and volume of merchandise sold from a single location." Those who navigate the shopping frenzy each May will especially enjoy Linder's behind-the-scenes take on the store: Linder is an Omaha-based entrepreneur, so the book benefits from her behind-the-scenes intelligence and `local' slant. In fact, given the throng crowding the counters for their "shareholder's discount," Linder's photos may provide the only chance out-of-towners have to see what the store really looks like.
An active entrepreneur, Linder serves on several boards and keeps current with women's leadership issues. I happened to sit next to her at a 1,000-person conference; upon exchanging cards, I realized she was the author of the book I'd purchased not only for myself but to give to entrepreneur friends. (What are the odds?) Whether you're specifically a BH fan, or just generally interested in business and entrepreneurship, Linder offers vivid portraits of a diverse group of leaders.