In mid-October, WikiLeaks released a series of email exchanges between members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign camp. The documents revealed that earlier this year both Bill and Melinda Gates had both been considered as a possible vice presidential running mate.
Bill Gates has already shared his general disinterest in seeking higher office. “I like my current job at the foundation better than I would being president,” he wrote during a Reddit AMA in March. “Also I wouldn’t be good at doing what you need to do to get elected.” Turns out, his wife doesn’t want the gig either. “I love my day job. I’m not going anywhere,” she added when asked about the leaked emails in front of a packed crowd at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts during Fast Company’s Innovation Festival.
While the philanthropic power couple cochair the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda’s recently been working on behalf of a personal cause. The topic, which was the subject of her Fast Company forum, is how to improve opportunities for women in tech. Gates was joined onstage by Regina Dugan, the iconic vice president of engineering and head of Facebook’s Building 8, a hardware division charged with finding new ways to connect with the world.
The discussion ranged from the importance of encouraging kids to develop computer skills at an early age (one way would be through better public school classes) to the solutions for boosting college class participation. (In one instance, just changing the name of a previously dull-sounding introductory class to “The Joy and Beauty of Computing” saw a 50% uptick in female enrollment at Berkeley.)
Gates took a moment to call out her personal pet peeves, like male over-talkers: “If I see man re-explaining something a woman said earlier, I will try to call it out in a somewhat nice way. I’ll say, ‘Sue over there just said that, right?'” And gender blaming: “We keep saying that women need to balance work-life, give me a break . . . Why do we put it all on the woman?” The more empowering solution would be to create better governmental and corporate policies around things like paternal and maternal leave, allowing flextime, and equal pay for equal work, she says.
With less than a week to go before the 2016 presidential election, neither Gates nor Dugan appeared excited to address a question about whether who wins might affect the progress of women in technology.
Instead, Gates and Dugan exchanged glances and there was a short pause. For the only time in the conversation, neither seemed eager to share their opinion.
“I’ll try that one,” Dugan added.
“Great,” Gates deadpanned as the crowd chuckled.
Dugan provided a one-word answer, which she delivered like a punch line, making it clear that both women probably had a preferred candidate.