How Melinda Gates Is Diversifying Tech

The lesson: Inclusivity starts at the top.

How Melinda Gates Is Diversifying Tech
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [Photo: Melissa Golden]

With her latest philanthropic campaign, Melinda Gates is trying to bring more women into the tech industry by helping to build a better pipeline. Gender diversity is an issue the former Microsoft executive knows well, which makes her advice especially valuable.

Find Your Own Style

Gates had a long, successful career at Microsoft, but it took her a while to find her way at the company. “When I started, I loved the industry and what we were building, but I didn’t love the [corporate culture]. So I finally decided to quit,” Gates said at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in November. “But then I thought, I’ll just try to be myself for a while [at Microsoft] and see what happens. And I started becoming a lot more successful. I was a manager by then, and people [were] flocking to work in my area. It turned out they were people who wanted to have their voices heard [too].”

Video: How Melinda Gates’s First Job Programmed The Rest Of Her Career

Change The Perspective

Some of the Gates Foundation’s most successful campaigns—such as an effort to rethink how to get birth control to women in the developing world—couldn’t have happened without a female point of view. “If we didn’t have women working on it, we wouldn’t [have found the solution]. Men don’t see it as a problem; birth control is not their issue. That’s exactly why we want women saying, ‘I’m going to work on [applying] tech and innovation and science toward humanitarian problems—whether they affect women or men.’ ”

Inclusivity Starts At The Top

At the foundation, Gates makes a point of speaking up in support of female colleagues in situations where, say, a man restates something that a woman already said or talks over her at a meeting. And Gates is equally eager to correct herself when she makes the same errors. “It’s important for all of us who have a seat at the table—men or women—to stand up and say what we see. We have to be transparent about it and realize that we all make mistakes.”


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