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Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, urged corporate America in an essay published online Thursday to help develop women's workplace potential, arguing women are the key to America's economic prosperity.

The essay ( ), written for the May 20 issue of Fortune magazine, made the economic — and ethical —case for expanding opportunities for women.

He says that most of America's prosperity was created using only about 50 percent of its talent, so he's confident the country will prosper as more women excel in the workforce.

"For most of our history, women — whatever their abilities — have been relegated to the sidelines," Buffett writes. "Only in recent years have we begun to correct that problem" and unleash the potential of women.

The essay comes just a few months after Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, published her book "Lean In," which pushes women to be more assertive in their careers and calls for more mentorship of female employees.

Sandberg's memoir has sparked a national conversation on women's workplace advancement.

Buffett discussed the topic at the University of Nebraska at Omaha's business college Thursday and took questions from students. The talk was broadcast online at

The essay was published just days before the company's annual shareholder meeting this weekend and comes two months after Calvert Investments published a report ranking Berkshire Hathaway as one of the least diverse companies in the S&P 100 Index.

In it, Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, recalls his friendship with the late Katherine Graham, who was chief executive of the Washington Post Co.

"I met Kay in 1973 and quickly saw that she was a person of unusual ability and character," Buffett writes. "But the gender-related self-doubt was certainly there, too."

Under Graham, the Washington Post Co. thrived, Buffett said. Since then, the corporate landscape for women has changed, but more can be done, he argued.

Buffett challenged male executives to think about how women can boost corporate productivity.

"So, my fellow males, what's in this for us?" he asks. "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?" —

Do as I say ...

Calvert Investments recently published a report ranking Berkshire Hathaway as one of the least diverse companies in the S&P 100 Index. —

Buffett now on Twitter

Warren Buffett, the technophobe chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, topped at least 80,000 followers on Twitter as he sent his first message Thursday on the social media site. "Warren is in the house," Buffett wrote in the post.

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