Last week Melinda Gates took a giant step forward in her work to accelerate gender equality in the U.S. and pledged $1 billion to expand women’s power and influence over the next decade. “Equality can’t wait, and no one in a position to act should either,” Gates wrote in an op-ed for Time magazine, while announcing her commitment to help women claim their power.
She will do the work through Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company working to drive social progress for women and families that she founded in 2015. “This announcement is not a departure for Melinda—it’s the latest chapter in her long-standing commitment to gender equality,” a spokesperson at Pivotal Ventures told Penta.
Gates, like many of us, feels like the time to act is now. A window of opportunity has opened, or as she writes, “More accurately, it was painstakingly pried open by the hundreds of thousands of people who have joined marches across the country, the millions of women who summoned the courage to tell their #MeToo stories, the record number of women who ran for office in 2018 and won.”
History shows that we are all in a position to act. As we wrote in In This Together, “for more than 200 years, women have organized, fought, campaigned, sacrificed, and supported each other to gain the rights to inherit property, to keep their children, get an education, pursue a career, vote, hold office, and the list goes on. Although they often received no credit, women whose intersecting identities left them marginalized with less privilege have nonetheless continued to lead the movements for women’s equality. It’s time to follow their lead. It’s time to exercise all those hard-won rights to achieve true equality now.”
As Gates recently wrote in Harvard Business Review, “The unprecedented energy and attention around gender equality makes this a moment when extraordinary progress is possible — and bold, ambitious goals are appropriate. We shortchange women if we set our sights too low.”
On post-inauguration Saturday in 2017, 4.6 million women and their male allies took to the streets in 642 cities on every continent on the globe and demonstrated for women’s rights. Hundreds of thousands of women continue to march and make their voices heard. Women are speaking out against their abusers and changing the dynamics of the workplace. And record numbers of women are running for – and winning – elected offices at every level.
We are making progress, albeit slowly at times. It’s important to keep in mind that every act to support another woman counts, and together we can accelerate the pace. Gates advises, “In order to seize this opportunity, we have to define our goals thoughtfully.”
Her goal is, “to expand women’spower and influence in society.” She added that she thinks of power and influence “as the ability to make decisions, control resources, and shape perspectives. It is something women exercise in their homes, in their workplaces, and in their communities.” Recognizing that “power and influence” are not words historically associated with women, nor that most women associate with themselves, overcoming gender bias to claim this power and influence is a step we must all make to create change now.
While we need philanthropists, like Melinda Gates, venture capitalists, businesses, and policy makers willing to invest in gender-focused intervention, we also need women on the ground working every day to lift one another up. We can all set our personal goal to accelerate gender equality within our own center of power and influence.
We each need to stand by the woman sharing her story, to support the woman running for office, help our neighbor who is struggling, and mentor the new woman in the workplace. As Gates says, it isn’t just grand gestures that got us to this point, it was daily acts of courage, too. And it still is. We all win when we lift others up as we go.
So ask yourself — how can you make your voice be heard? What thoughtful goal can you set to help women get their fair and equal share? How can you be courageous today and use your personal power and influence to support another woman?