Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Leadership Series: Changing the World Begins With Women at the Table

November 16, 2012

Last week, Melinda and I posted on Facebook that this election marked a great step forward for women in the United States.  Starting in January, twenty female Senators and 79 female Representatives will take their place in the 113th Congress. As Melinda wrote, “This has been an important week for women in the US and with continued partnership and collaboration, for women everywhere in the world.”

She is right. 

There is so much reason to celebrate not just for the individual politicians who are headed to Washington, but for all women in this country and even beyond our borders. Having women in leadership positions means that when issues arise in Congress that affect women—and by that I mean every single issue because, really, what issue does not affect 51 percent of the population?— more women will be sitting at the table for those discussions. Even better, they will get to vote on the laws of our land.

 
I think a world where half of our countries and half of our companies were run by women, would be a better world.


And yet, while we’re cheering this record number, we also know it isn’t enough. For more than a decade, women have constituted thirteen to seventeen percent of the Senate. A jump to twenty percent is progress, but incremental. Waiting another decade to get to twenty-five percent will not do. 

If this makes me an impatient optimist, I’m proud to be one.

The promise of equality is not the same as real equality. I think a world where half of our countries and half of our companies were run by women, would be a better world.  By taking advantage of the talents of our full population, our performance will increase. And by having equal representation at the tables where decisions are made, better decisions will be made. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a wonderful example of how powerful female leadership can lead to positive change. Secretary Clinton has been extraordinarily effective elevating foreign policy while also using her global spotlight to focus attention on issues for girls and women.. The United States is stronger and women all over the world are safer and healthier because of her tireless efforts.

Melinda has had an equally powerful impact on the world as co-founder of the Gates Foundation which focuses on poverty, and by extension, women who represent seventy percent of the world’s poorest citizens.  Melinda’s mission to improve global health issues has led to providing vaccines, AIDS drugs, and contraception to those who need it most and can access it the least.

Changing the world is a wonderful goal but where does greater leadership begin? With each and every woman being encouraged to lean in.  

As we think about leadership for the current and next generation, it is up to us to do all we can to urge every individual – women along with men – to achieve their full potential. 

 
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