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Curiosity leads Omaha angel investor to pen book about Berkshire women

Karen Linder, cytotechnologist, Nebraska Angels investor and entrepreneur, has added published author to her credentials. “The Women of Berkshire Hathaway: Lessons from Warren Buffet’s Female CEOs and Directors,” published by John Wiley and Sons, debuts this weekend at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder’s meeting in Omaha.

It was actually last year’s meeting that sparked Linder’s interest in writing a book about the female managers of Berkshire companies. “I realized during the video montage of CEOs, there weren’t many women,” Linder (left) remembered. A little bit of research revealed there are four, to be exact, out of more than 80 managers. “I started thinking about how there really aren’t many books out there about business for women by women about women.”

Over the course of that Berkshire weekend, Linder met Cathy Baron Tamraz, CEO of Business Wire. “I briefly mentioned my idea, and she handed me her card,” Linder said. “She told me if this was something I actually did that I should get in touch with her.”

After one pitch to one publisher with no agent involved, Linder had a contract with Wiley and a January 2012 deadline. “I gave myself a deadline in December and pretty much wrote full-time for five months.”

During those five months, Linder interviewed nine women who have had an impact on Berkshire Hathaway: four CEOs and five other women who fall under such categories as chairpersons, directors and business partners. She followed up with Tamraz, flying to New York for an interview and a tour of Business Wire.

“Every one of these women is at the top of her industry, and most of them are in male-dominated industries,” Linder said. “The majority of these women come from very average backgrounds, and some didn’t go straight to college.”

One interviewee in particular stands out in Linder’s mind. Charlotte Guyman, a former Microsoft manager, was the first female non-family member on the Berkshire board of directors. “She keeps a low profile,” Linder said, “but I feel she’s had a huge impact on business, women’s leadership and really, I believe, on humanity. A very impressive woman.”

Linder said she was surprised to discover that most of her interviewees felt they had no hurdles to overcome that were specific to women. “They just had that level of self-confidence,” she said. “They simply didn’t acknowledge hurdles as hurdles. You deal with what’s in front of you.”

Even though Linder said she wrote the book because she felt young women need more role models in the business world, her husband Dr. Jim Linder encourages men to read it as well. “There’s a lot in there that’s valuable for men in business too,” he said.

And what does the man of Berkshire think of The Women of Berkshire Hathaway? “I’ve heard Buffet is going to mention the book during the meeting on Saturday,” Linder said. “I’m pretty sure I won’t sleep Friday night.”

Linder will be available to sign her book at The Bookworm booth in the CenturyLink Exhibit Hall on Saturday.


Credits: Images courtesy of Karen Linder.

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