Even Melinda Gates Has Struggled to Get Her Husband Bill to Do His Fair Share

By Michal Lev-Ram | Fortune | May 07, 2019

Melinda Gates’ new book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, takes readers on a journey through many of the regions where the eponymous foundation she leads with her husband Bill Gates attempts to affect change. But one of the most fascinating chapters of her book, titled “The Silent Inequality,” takes place at least partly in her own backyard.

Gates writes eloquently and powerfully about the disproportionate amount of so-called “unpaid work” that millions of women do each day, from cooking to cleaning to childcare. The phenomenon is something she has struggled with in her home too, and over the course of the chapter, Gates opens up about the efforts she and her husband, the founder and former CEO of Microsoft, have made to get to equality at home.

Gates is the first to acknowledge that she has been incredibly privileged in life. But her personal challenges with the inequality of unpaid work strengthens her argument about the universality and severity of the problem. “On average, women around the world spend more than twice as many hours as men on unpaid work,” writes Gates. “But the range of the disparity is wide.” In poorer countries, women tend to spend even more time on unpaid work, deepening the divide between their opportunities outside of the home and those of the men around them.

In one telling (and hilarious) anecdote, Gates writes about how, when her daughter Jenn was in kindergarten, she had to drive back and forth to her school twice a day, a forty-minute commute each way. She told her husband about her frustration with spending so much time in the car every day, and he offered to take on some of the drop-offs. About three weeks in, she started noticing more dads than usual dropping their kids off in her daughter’s class. Gates went up to another mom and asked what was going on. The other mom replied: “When we saw Bill driving, we went home and said to our husbands, ‘Bill Gates is driving his child to school; you can too.'”

Through her book, Gates addresses many other challenges that impact women across the world, from child marriage to lack of access to contraception, along with solutions and countless personal stories from the women she has met through her work and travels. Fortune caught up with Gates to find out more about why she wrote the book, how to alleviate the inequality women contend with, both in and out of the home, and what it was like to share aspects of her own life story with her readers. An edited transcript of the interview follows.

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