The moment of lift: how empowering women changes the world

by Melinda Gates

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This book is about empowering women by giving them the freedom to make their own choices and speak for themselves. She said some important things about stigma in society. She talked specifically about the stigma of not talking about birth control, but she made general statements too. It’s each person’s responsibility to work against stigma and stop the human tendency to cast out others. I need to spend more time thinking about my own stigmas and biases, so that I can help those who are marginalized.

I really started taking notes around chapter 5.

chapter 5 (my favorite chapter) permalink

This chapter was the first time I really felt I understood why it’s important to measure and talk about the unpaid work done by women. Whether or not you think the amount of unpaid work should be equally shared by the parents in your family, it’s important to know and acknowledge the numbers so you can make informed decisions, both as a family and as a community. Women tend to do more work than men, meaning women have less time to pursue hobbies, skills, and jobs.

A great way to develop empathy and understanding is to stay in their home, get to know them, and do their work with them.

Caregiving is a selfless exercise, but when it is forced upon someone by society it not only makes it less meaningful for the person giving the care, but it takes away meaningful opportunities from those who are not forced to provide care.

We should try swapping roles once in a while to recognize things we want to change.

Here Melinda spent time talking about how she and Bill developed their ability to be a equal partners. I find a lot of parallels between the Gates’ relationship and ours. I think what makes Bill and Melinda’s relationship especially powerful is that they share strong vision because of their shared values. I need to spend more time thinking about this with regard to our marriage and vision.

To reach an equal partnership, we have to achieve parity in our voices. We don’t have to be equal, but we do need to provide equal contribution. It would be a huge loss to split our roles, because both our voices are meaningful (even if one of us is more passionate about a particular problem than the other). What brings them together is a shared vision that all people are equally worthy of opportunities and growth.

To develop this equal partnership together, there has to be total respect. Teasing brings down the other.

I also loved how she described Bill’s humility. He consistently recognizes that he has been extremely fortunate, and doesn’t let his privilege cloud his view of others. Above all things, he values the idea that all people’s lives are just as valuable as others. He is effective because he can be soft as well as hard.

chapter 8 permalink

I have to help my wife be her own person and accomplish her own goals. Trying to change her to be how I’d like her to be is abuse, because it’s selfishly motivated.

Men and women have never been given equal opportunity. It’s so common for people to believe that since there are fewer women engineers women must be worse engineers, for example. But that judgment is impossible to make until there is opportunity parity.

There are so many systems (venture capital, university education, etc.) that are biased against women and minorities. You have to try to fund and support people outside of your “boys club”, because it makes both moral and economic sense. This is also why we need women and minorities in the decision-making positions! A biased decision-making group makes biased decisions.

Group intelligence is highly correlated with these factors:

  1. social sensitivity
  2. their ability to take turns
  3. the presence of women

Women are more risk-averse, and that makes it hard for them to advance. Unfortunately, they’ve found that women in professional settings receive backlash when their assertiveness is not accompanied by altruism and the motivation to benefit others.

The most powerful positions in the workforce today are filled by men who have wives at home that take care of their families. This assumption designs a system that makes it difficult for those who don’t have that luxury. Paid family and medical leave alleviates this.

When men take leave, the increased sharing of unpaid work stays after he returns to work.

chapter 9 permalink

Women need to come together and share their stories.

The most radical approach to resistance is acceptance.

Isolating others because of our fears is human nature, but it has to be overcome.

epilogue permalink

Equality without connection is isolation. Love is what makes us one, and lets us feel others’ pain when they feel it. When we love and feel loved, we become confident.