The first book from the noted philanthropist focuses on women’s empowerment.
Gates explains that her public advocacy began with the conviction that women need the tools to let them decide for themselves when and whether to have children. But she soon realized that activism around discrete topics—e.g., contraception or girls’ access to school—was not enough: She needed to speak up for women in general. While it has long been understood that empowered women are key to the health of any community, in the author’s hands, the idea feels fresh, or at least energized. Even though she confesses that she didn’t always consider herself a feminist and that she found the idea of working for a wider women’s agenda overwhelming, Gates is a down-to-earth, likable narrator, and she has an eye for gut-wrenching tales. She introduces us to 11-year-old Selam, who spent a day cheerfully helping her mother prepare for a party only to be told, that evening, that she was to be married that night; and Meena, who, upon meeting Gates, told her she was unable to raise her two children and asked Gates to take the children home with her. Meena said that while she eventually learned about family planning, the education came “too late.” Unsurprisingly, the author, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and master’s in business from Duke, thinks that continuing to work on new technologies that can improve human lives is important, but just as crucial is the development of new and better “delivery systems.” What distinguishes this book from so many other depictions of women’s struggles around the globe is the author’s ability to connect Meena and Selam with women in white-collar workplaces in the U.S. Gates doesn’t just want rural farms to be rid of bias; she also wants offices in major cities to be “compatible with family life.”
Affecting and inspiring.