This Is What Melinda Gates Is Reading

This originally appeared in the Bloomberg Daily newsletter, which Melinda Gates guest-edited today. You can sign up here to receive it in your inbox daily.

As you might expect of an organization started by two computer nerds, the Gates Foundation is almost obsessively data-driven. We started our foundation to bring a business-minded approach to philanthropy, committing ourselves to using data to uncover opportunities where relatively small investments could yield big gains against global poverty and disease.

Our focus on data is precisely why we have chosen to make gender equality a cornerstone of our work. When women have the opportunity to work outside the home and earn an income, they use those resources to invest in a better future for themselves and their families. When women have decision-making power in their households, they use it to prioritize things like health care, nutritious food, and education — all building blocks of a prosperous society.

This economic argument resonates all over the world—even with finance ministers who were previously skeptical that gender equality deserves a place on their list of priorities. And I’m in D.C. this week to talk about how the proposed cuts to U.S. foreign aid would disproportionately hurt women and girls and threaten to roll back progress for everyone.

The stories below are full of reminders that women are ready and willing to continue their quiet work to change the world.

First Woman to Officially Run Boston Marathon Does It Again, 50 Years Later, by Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

When Kathrine Switzer crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday, it marked 50 years since she became the first woman to officially enter the race. In 1967, an official tried to rip her bib, number 261, right off her shirt. This week, they’re retiring it in her honor. Kathrine has competed in over three dozen marathons, and she’s inspired countless female runners, including me. Thanks to her, 261 isn’t just a number. It’s a rallying cry — because every woman deserves an equal place at the starting line. 

How the Six-Hour Workday Actually Saves Money, by Rebecca Greenfield, Bloomberg

Time is an invaluable resource. It’s in especially short supply for working women, who, on top of a full-time job, are often expected to do the bulk of our unpaid labor, including cooking, cleaning, and caretaking. The time poverty that results can erode everything from your health to your job performance. Now, a Swedish experiment has shown that when people work fewer hours in the day, employees get healthier, more productive, and more effective at their jobs — saving companies money across the board. Policies like this, along with paid family and medical leave, could make a huge difference for all of us.

Facing Down the Taliban, One Orchestra Performance at a Time, by Robbie Gramer, Foreign Policy

This story took my breath away. In Afghanistan, years of Taliban rule nearly erased a rich musical tradition. But because Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast decided to act, Afghan children — among them students, street workers, and orphans — are bringing it back. Not only that: At the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, which Dr. Sarmast lobbied tirelessly to create, classrooms are advancing gender equality by teaching boys and girls side by side. It’s made the school a target for violent extremists. But the orchestras continue to perform in venues spanning from Kabul to Washington — proving, like Dr. Sarmast says, that “hope is alive, optimism is alive, and Afghanistan is breathing.”

Alcohol Ban Succeeds As Women Warn, “Behave, or We’ll Get Tough, by Geeta Anand, the New York Times

This is what it looks like when women band together. In Bihar, one of India’s most impoverished states, household spending on alcohol — usually by men — was making it impossible for families to invest in the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. Then, women marshalled behind a prohibition law — and today, violent crime is tumbling while spending on food and vehicles soars. Stories like these make it clear why more and more leaders are turning to women as a way to drive economic growth. As Bihar’s chief minister put it, “only when you have the women behind you can you succeed.”

Silicon Valley’s Sexism ProblemThe Economist

We hear a lot about how the lack of diversity in tech is a pipeline issue. It’s true that we need to patch up the leaks—from kindergarten to the C-suite—that keep too many women and minorities from pursuing careers in computer science. But as we work to ensure a strong supply of diverse tech workers, we also need to cultivate demand, which means getting more women in charge of venture capital funds. This article spotlights how more diverse VC teams could help break up the “brogrammer” culture of Silicon Valley, producing better returns at the same time.

Millions May Starve in Africa. The U.S. Should Do Something About It, by the Washington Post Editorial Board

In the U.S., the debate over foreign aid often feels abstract. It can be hard to imagine who the tiny fraction of the federal budget we send overseas is helping, or exactly why it’s needed. But this piece from the Washington Post Editorial Board puts the stakes in the clearest possible terms: Without American support, millions of people will starve to death in the Middle East and North Africa. Foundations like ours will keep working with farmers to raise crop yields and advance sustainable agriculture. But no organization could hope to address problems of this scale without strong partners in government — and especially in ours.

This CEO Counts Lives Saved As the Bottom Line, by Betsy McKay, the Wall Street Journal

Maybe I’m biased, but I really enjoyed this interview with an incredible CEO, Sue Desmond-Hellmann of the Gates Foundation. Our work has benefited enormously from her ability to apply her experience as a medical doctor, clinical scientist, and expert in precision medicine to solving global health problems. In this piece, she shares her thoughts on the importance of foreign aid and how to keep morale up in mission-driven jobs.

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