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‘Pay it forward’ | Melinda Gates talks equality in the workplace at SXSW

'Everyone has someone – a teacher, a parent, a leader who called them out – who helped them get where they are,' Gates said. 'You need to pay it forward and pull people along with you.'
Credit: SXSW Facebook
Melinda Gates speaking SXSW 2018's interactive keynote.

As an advocate for women in the workplace, Melinda Gates is certainly the ultimate role model.

Gates joined Microsoft in 1987 to help develop the company’s multimedia products. She then left nearly 10 years later to focus on her philanthropic work. She now serves as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

At South by Southwest’s interactive keynote March 11, Gates was joined by a panel of innovators to talk about “the way new technologies, new business models and new social movements are redefining what it means to go to work.”

Gates and Joanna Coles, chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, started the conversation by talking about the rise of dual-income couples.

“You’re part of a very dual-income couple,” Coles said to Gates, prompting laughter from the crowd.

It was quite possibly the most obvious statement of the talk. She and her husband, Bill Gates, propelled their careers through Microsoft. Bill Gates is known as one of the wealthiest people in the world.

“When he left Microsoft, we had to shift a lot of tasks at home,” Gates. “Like today, I’m here. Guess who’s home?”

Coles asked her what kind of lessons her daughters take from her relationship.

“I want them to know that every relationship can be equal – whether at home or at work,” Gates said.

Part of what makes the workplace equal is the decision-making on the executive level, Gates said.

She said “we have to disproportionately make sure” we’re putting money toward women-led companies and. She also said we need equal representation of women and people of color on business boards.

“Everyone has someone – a teacher, a parent, a leader who called them out – who helped them get where they are,” Gates said. “You need to pay it forward and pull people along with you.”

Watch the whole keynote here: