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Mary Buffett: I want women to know they can do it!

Mary Buffett

Love yourself and do what you love

`By Trevor Clarke

Mary Buffett is a former daughter-in-law of the renowned billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Mary started her early career in the music business, where she met her former husband, Peter. Today she travels around the globe as a keynote speaker and sharing the stage with the biggest names, offering her advice and wisdom on investing, and women’s issues. Mary rarely gives interviews and we are privileged that she has chosen to share a little of her story and nuggets of wisdom for the readers of Global Woman magazine. 

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Can you tell us about your childhood memories and growing up?

I grew up in a typical large Italian family in Chicago Illinois. My mother was always interested in business and investing. She was an excellent role model that promoted the fact that women could do anything. I had a very happy childhood there. Then I moved to Beverly Hills, California, where my sister Laura, who was a few years older, introduced me to the music business and all of the amazing and famous people I met because of her.

You were married to Peter Buffett, youngest son of Warren Buffett, for 12 years. Please tell us about that period in your life.

It was a wonderful period. I only knew that his father owned See’s Candy and Blue Chip Stamps. But having lived in Beverly Hills, most people’s fathers’ owned businesses. When I met Peter, he was a struggling musician, I had already had over ten years or more in the music business, as a songwriter, singer, producer, manager and eventually worked for Hugh Hefner’s Music Publishing Companies, Playboy Music as their managing director. I was 19 at that time. I went into other businesses after that, including skateboards, the movie “Dog Town” was made about that period of time and with some of the skateboarders that were signed to our company Alva Skates. During that period, Peter’s sister, Susie, wanted me to meet and help her brother in the music business. We met, I was a single mom with twin daughters, we all fell in love, especially the girls and Peter! I visited him in San Francisco, and we decided I would manage his career and recording studio. We married, and he adopted both of our daughters. They are the only children he has.

As Warren became more and more known to the world, it was much more than I bargained for being attached to the richest man in America. I was however very close with Peter’s mother Susie, who lived a few blocks from us in San Francisco. We moved to Milwaukee Wisconsin in 1990 and our lives changed. The girls and I moved back to California and Peter stayed in Milwaukee. We divorced in 1993.

As Warren became more and more known to the world, it was much more than I bargained for being attached to the richest man in America.

What values have you instilled in your children and what are you most proud of about them?

The greatest value to have is to love yourself and do what you love. To be grateful and work for what you want. The thing I am proudest about each of them, is what kind and generous people they are. They always think of others and are extremely sensitive. They love to give and each is an incredibly mindful and spiritual person.

You featured in a documentary film, FEMME – Women Healing the World, with Sharon Stone as executive producer. Tell us about that experience and why you feel so passionately about the advocacy of women’s issues.

I am very excited to be part of the director Emmanuel ITIER’s films. Femme was about inspiring how women could bring peace to the world and I am also in his next film Women Healing the world. I think both are self-explanatory. He was honored by the U.N, Association for Peace in action. I am proud to be a small part of any of his and Sharon Stones films.

How far do you think that progress has been made in women advancing in a still mostly male dominated world and what changes would you like to see in the near and medium-term future?

When I started as a working woman, there wasn’t even the ERA (equal rights amendment) for women. I was very active in all kinds of anti-war, equality for women, equal rights for African Americans. I marched, protested and made as much of a difference as I could. I think there has been progress, however I believe more women should be involved in politics on every level. More women should open and run their own businesses. Every woman should be paid the same as a man for the same job. Something our current president is not likely to do. Women live longer than men. We spend approximately thirteen years in our lives as unpaid caregivers to our children, husbands or partners and our parents. All while most of us have jobs as well. I like what Michael Moore said; “If we only gave guns to women, there wouldn’t be wars or as many gun related violence” I believe this to be so true. No mother wants her child to go to war. Women are peace makers, listeners, solving problems with a sense of equality.

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What is your view of the huge publicity recently about the ugly side of male behavior where they are in positions of power and abusing that by seeing women as sexual objects for gratification? And your view of the #MeToo social media campaign?

I know that from personal experience, starting in the music business as a 14 year old singer exactly what it was like then and had been before that. I always wanted to be an actress, but I decided to go into the music business mainly because I thought the male behavior and aggressive sexual expectations would be less. What a joke that was. The behavior has been around since the business began. On my FaceBook page Maureen O’Hara talked about it happening to her. The fact that men think about sex many times a day as opposed to women, the fact that most of the creative directors at advertising agencies are men. Don’t be surprised by all of the sexual innuendo in everything from bubble gum to cigarettes to milk! The #MeToo campaign is again something women can do. Just like one million women gathered in Washington D.C. the day after Donald Trump was elected, and in every other city around the country. I can bet if you asked three girls aged 13, at least one of them would have had some sexual misconduct happen to them. I think the origins of the #MeToo campaign are important to remember. Social activist and community organizer Tarana Burke created the phrase “Me Too” on the MySpace social network in 2006 as part of a grassroots campaign to promote ‘empowerment through empathy’ among women of color who have experienced sexual abuse, particularly within underprivileged communities. Burke, who is creating a documentary titled Me Too, has said she was inspired to use the phrase after being unable to respond to a 13-year-old girl who confided to her that she had been sexually assaulted. Burke later wished she had simply told the girl, “me too” On October 15th, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged spreading the phrase as part of an awareness campaign to show the scale and ubiquity of the problem, tweeting: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Milano later attributed the phrase to Burke, calling Burke’s story “heartwarming and inspiring”.)

 Women are peace makers, listeners, solving problems with a sense of equality.

What inspired you to write the book Buffettologoy and the follow up book? What golden nuggets of information and wisdom would you care to share with our readers from the books?

After I found myself as a woman in her late thirties with two young girls, and no more of Warren’s gifts of wisdom, or his famous Christmas shares of companies, I was besieged by many agents to write a “tell all” book, since Warren and Susie’s relationship was unique and worked for them. Also, not much was known about him. They after all, were the grandparents of my children and our divorce while hard was amicable. I thought there must be a lot of women in my position, and I originally wanted to write the book for women. But as I got into the real important things about his investment techniques, I wanted to write a really smart book about his investments. I thought that would be much more interesting than anything else. So I asked a friend who knew the quantitative side of things to co-author with me. After it became evident and a best seller we just continued writing. Together we have written eight bestselling books in over twenty languages. I have just finished a book with Sean Seah of 8VIC Value Investing College that will be out soon!

What was your first public speaking engagement and how did you feel before doing that for the first time?

It was in London at the Islington Arena on our book Buffettology. I was quite nervous, because we had so many wonderful speakers before us. But I soon began to love speaking as a way of teaching financial literacy. Something I am very serious about.

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You now travel the world and are on stage with the great names so well known to many. Can you tell us about your best experiences and speakers and why?

I always feel so privileged to share the stage with other speakers with the same and most times different opinions. I learn, I listen each time I am speaking at an event, it seems like it just keeps getting better. I especially enjoyed speaking with General Colin Powell.

What are your recommendations for encouraging more women to become keynote speakers on the world’s biggest stages?

I want women to know they can do it! Whether it’s talking at a PTA meeting about things important at their school, or speaking out about things important to women’s issues. Write about it, send it to newspaper, and never give up! Like Nike says, JUST DO IT!

What are your top places in the world and why?

I always say that one of the hardest things for me to do is to stay in the present. That way you enjoy what and where you are. I tell my children and friends to remember they are exactly where they are supposed to be! So I guess my favorite places are wherever I am.

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