Warren Buffett used a wildly sexist trope to explain the Heinz Kraft-Unilever takeover bid

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

A pearl of business wisdom from white male gajillionaire Warren Buffett: "When a woman says no, she means maybe." 

In an interview with CNBC's Becky Quick on Monday's episode of Squawk Box, the magnate attempted to explain an acquisition offer one corporate giant made to another. Buffett described Unilever essentially as a fickle woman after the company turned down a $143 billion from Buffett-backed Heinz Kraft. The proceedings, Buffett told Quick, recalled "that old story about the difference between a diplomat and a lady." 

"I don't know whether you've heard that or not," Buffett continued. Quick said she hadn't, and so he obliged her.

Billionaire Warren Buffett suggests that, when a woman says no, she really means maybe.
Source: 
Charles Sykes/AP

"Well, if a diplomat says yes, he means maybe," Buffett said. "If he says maybe, he means no. And if he says no, he's no diplomat." 

"And if a lady says no, she means maybe. And if she says maybe, she means yes. And if she says yes, she's no lady." 

Buffett added that Kraft Heinz chairman Alex Behring "probably got a maybe" when he approached Unilever, but "didn't know whether it was coming from a diplomat or a lady." 

On top of the glaring sexism contained within his little allegory, Buffett seems to have also momentarily forgotten that women can be — and often are — diplomats.  It was an unfortunate oversight given that Buffett has, for years, complained that women are woefully undervalued in the professional sphere. 

Might that have something to do with the fact that men often fail to take women seriously or at their word? 

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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