Melinda Gates, the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has written a new book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World. In the book, Gates calls on readers to support women everywhere as a means to lift up society. Gates addresses gender equality throughout the book, using her own personal stories as examples.
After becoming pregnant in 1995, Gates decided to leave Microsoft to be a stay at home parent.
‘I shocked Bill by saying: ‘I’m not going to keep working after I have this baby. I’m not going back.’
He was stunned. ‘What do you mean, you’re not going back?’ And I said: ‘We’re lucky enough not to need my income. So this is about how we want to raise a family. You’re not going to downshift at work, and I don’t see how I can put in the hours I need to do a great job at work and raise a family at the same time.’
I’m offering you a candid account of this exchange with Bill to make an important point: When I first confronted the challenges of being a working woman and a mother, I had some growing up to do. My personal model back then — and I don’t think it was a very conscious model — was that when couples had children, men worked and women stayed home.
Frankly, I think it’s great if women want to stay at home. But it should be a choice — not something we do because we think we have no choice. I don’t regret my decision. I’d make it again. At the time, though, I just assumed that’s what women do.’
And while Gates’ assumptions about what women have to do in the home have changed, perhaps it was without her realising she was making such an impact.
‘It’s a lot of work raising kids: taking them to school, to the doctor, to sports practise and drama lessons; supervising homework; sharing meals; keeping the family connected to friends at birthday parties, weddings, and graduations. And at different points, I have come to Bill, exhausted, and said: ‘Help!’
When Jenn started kindergarten in the autumn of 2001, her school was 40 minutes away, and I knew I would be driving back and forth twice a day.
When I complained to Bill about the time I’d be spending in the car, he said: ‘I can do some of that.’ And I said: ‘Seriously? You’ll do that?’ ‘Sure,’ he said. ‘It’ll give me time to talk to Jenn.’ So Bill started driving her twice a week.
About three weeks in, on my days, I started noticing a lot of dads dropping kids off in the classroom. So I went up to one of the moms and said: ‘Hey, what’s up? There are a lot of dads here.’ She said: ‘When we saw Bill driving, we went home and said to our husbands: “Bill Gates is driving his child to school — you can, too.” ’
The book is full of private stories, revealing her struggle to balance her role as a mum of three, her career as a tech pioneer and philanthropist, and the public life of being married to one of the world’s richest men. So how does Mrs Gates feel about life right now “At the moment, I feel really great. I am really comfortable at age 54 with who I am. And so I’m kind of like, take it or leave it.”