Melinda Gates shocked Bill when she quit her high-powered Microsoft job because she 'assumed' women were supposed to stay home and raise kids


Melinda Gates

  • Billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates wrote in her new book “The Moment of Lift” that she “assumed” she needed to quit her job after getting pregnant with her first child.
  • Bill Gates, however, did not expect his wife to quit working. In fact, Melinda says she left Bill “stunned.”
  • Melinda told Business Insider US Editor-in-Chief Alyson Shontell that she grew up in an environment where most mothers stayed home, and did not realize she had other options until later in life.
  • Her perspective has since changed, and now Gates has had three careers as a high-powered Microsoft executive, a full-time mother, and a philanthropist.
  • Visit BusinessInsider’s homepage for more stories.

Melinda Gates, a Duke graduate with a degree in computer science and business, joined Microsoft in the late 1980s when it was still a small company. She climbed her way through the ranks and ultimately managed a team of more than 1,000 people.

During that time, she met her now-husband and then-Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates, at a work dinner. Microsoft was one of the things that bonded the couple together.

But when Gates got pregnant with their first child, Jennifer, her priorities changed.

Gates decided she would quit her job to raise her children. She wrote in her book, “The Moment of Lift,” that that’s what she “assumed” women were supposed to do.

But Bill did not make the same assumption. Gates says her husband was “stunned” when she mentioned she wouldn’t be returning to Microsoft. 

Read more: Melinda Gates reveals the secret to a strong marriage and the surprisingly simple answer to the world’s toughest problem

“What do you mean, you’re not going back?” Melinda recalled Bill asking in her book. 

Business Insider’s US Editor-in-Chief, Alyson Shontell, asked Gates why she made that assumption about working women.  

Gates explained that she was raised in a middle class neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, where  most women did not work. Her mother led a small real-estate business, but she was also home with her children.

“I did have a role model of a working mom in a small business, but I didn’t have a role model of a woman going off to work,” Gates said.

She also said that because her husband ran one of the world’s most powerful companies, she knew Bill would not be able to leave his job or take a step back in his career. Gates recalled saying to him, “If we want the values that we both believe in as a couple for the kids, somebody has to be home to instill those values.”

That didn’t mean Gates was done working outside the home forever.

“Bill was incredibly supportive all along the way,” Gates said. “Even after Jenn, our oldest was born, he would say, “What are you going to do?” Because he knew that I actually enjoyed working, and that was supportive to have a husband say that…He knew that I would enjoy using my talents and my brain on something else in addition.”

Once Gates’ three children were a little older, her perspective on needing to be a stay-at-home mom changed.

Though she says if she had to do it all over again, she’d still have chosen to quit her Microsoft job for her family.

“Once we had the values [established and] we had people around us who were also imparting those same values that we had, then I felt, ‘OK, I do want to work, and I will be a working mom.'”

Read Melinda Gates’ full interview with Business Insider, or watch below »


SEE ALSO: Bill and Melinda Gates wash dishes together every night, and it symbolizes a feature every strong marriage has

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