Kevin O’Leary, the “Shark Tank” investor most known for his love of money and his joyous take-downs of amateur entrepreneurs on national television, surprisingly has a soft spot for female CEOs.
“Women make better CEOs. All things being equal, given the choice between a woman and a man, I would pick the woman every time.”
“Mr. Wonderful,” as many like to call him on the show, might actually be a closeted corporate feminist, a progressive stance that might make you say something like, “More men in business should be like Kevin O’Leary,” but he’s only giving credit where it’s sorely due.
When Roth pressed him to elaborate, he summed up that it’s mostly based on statistics: 55% of the companies in his portfolio have women CEOs, and he’s been purposefully investing in companies for the past two years where women are in charge based on “pragmatic financial data.”
“I’ve invested in 20 different entrepreneurial and mid-cap companies and I’ve made more money with the women executives. It’s that simple.”
But what is it about women that make them better than men in business? First, O’Leary explained, women get him faster exits and higher returns, but they are also simply better managers.
“Attributes that I have observed are that they take less risk, they are more goal orientated in terms of setting targets and meeting them. If they say, ‘I am going to expand capacity or we’re going to increase distribution in the next quarter,’ they deliver … It’s not an intuitive feeling. It’s actual hardcore results.”
Now, O’Leary sees companies with a female CEO as a safe bet.
“When I am faced with two opportunities, whether it’s large cap, mid cap or otherwise, and the CEO is a woman, I tend to pick that option first because it’s the path of least resistance. I’m not looking at it from a social or moral point of view; I’m looking at it from a financial return point of view. I just make more money with women, period.”
One could say that the traditional sense for men leading companies was that they were risk-takers, and it was glorious when their bets paid off. But in a down economy, O’Leary will have none of that — women don’t take unnecessary risks and are more level-headed in business.
“I look at it from the operational side … I’m also in financial services and often the women who do analysis and trading have less volatility. So, it’s not just about achieving the highest returns, it’s about achieving a high return with lower volatility and that has a value. It must be that as they make their decisions … they dig harder or … they are less ‘cowboyish.’ I’d rather have a smoother ride.”
O’Leary’s experience is also backed by science; a report last year by financial services firm Credit Suisse found that companies with more than one woman on their boards outperformed all-male boards of other companies.
Faced with the hard facts and the advice of one of the iciest (and now most lovable) “Shark Tank” investors, companies everywhere would be making a mistake not to bring a woman or two on board. O’Leary ended his rant on his love for women in business with this:
“I have very few examples of times where I haven’t gotten my capital returned or made money with managers who are women … It’s a huge mistake … It’s a huge disadvantage not to bring women into management. Women are the best bets.”