Moment of Lift: Empowering Women

I recently read the very good book by Melinda Gates called “The Moment of Lift:  How Empowering Women Changes the World.”  I am an admirer of Bill and Melinda Gates because they worked hard with a new idea (Microsoft).  While they made a fortune from it, they have worked just as hard at giving it away.  The birthday of our country seemed like a good time to review a book written by this couple who are part of the “American Dream.”

The book begins with a couple of chapters of autobiography, but Melinda doesn’t stay on her own story for long.  Instead, she tells the stories of individual women from all over the world.  Each of these women has helped Melinda see past her life of white privilege and learn a lesson about empowering women.

In “The Moment of Lift” Melinda describes the moments when she learned something that enabled the Gates Foundation to take the next step toward eliminating global poverty.  The Gates Foundation didn’t begin as an organization that would empower women.  Instead, they wanted to empower all people.  But Melinda learned early on that in order to empower all people, you had to empower the people considered least in a society.  And women are always the least.

Melinda Gates

Each chapter of “The Moment of Lift” shows the development of the Gates Foundation as it moves beyond helping the most visible segment of a society to working to empower the invisible.  Melinda describes her personal journey, which becomes the journey of the foundation.  Gradually she realizes that birth control is a power issue.  Do women have control of their own bodies?  Water is a power issue when women are the ones who have to walk miles to fetch the water.  Health is a power issue when the women are seen as expendable and the men are not.

I’ve read some reviews that criticize “The Moment of Lift” as lauding the Gates Foundation.  I did not feel this was the case.  Melinda is genuinely searching for the sources of poverty in a society and trying to find ways to combat them.  Inequality between men and women is a primary source of poverty.  Melinda and the Gates Foundation are working to eliminate poverty all over the world.  To make a real difference, not just throw money at the problem.  If we want to lift families out of poverty, let’s teach the women to handle money and start a business.

I found “The Moment of Lift” very inspirational.  Melinda hasn’t been afraid to learn new things or admit when she has made mistakes.  The book made me want to contribute to the Gates Foundation, but Melinda also lists lots of other organizations that are making a difference.  There are lots of ways to contribute to empowering women in the book, including seeing our country in a new light.  One of them is by reading this book.

I’ll leave you with a final thought from the book.  “It’s often surprisingly easy to find bias, if you look. Who was omitted or disempowered or disadvantaged when the cultural practice was formed? Who didn’t have a voice? Who wasn’t asked their view? Who got the least share of power and the largest share of pain? How can we fill in the blind spots and reverse the bias?