In her book “The Power of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World,” former Microsoft executive Melinda Gates talks candidly about quitting. The woman whom the world now considers an indomitable force almost left Microsoft. Its antagonistic, male-dominated culture was difficult to navigate, yet she survived. When she did leave Microsoft after nine years, it was on her terms. She chose to be a stay-at-home mom.
With her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Melinda established the global Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which addresses education, maternal health, agricultural development, poverty, gender inequities, and other humanitarian concerns. In 2018, she and Bill were named the most generous philanthropists in America by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Their impactful giving reached $45 billion in 2019, and it’s still climbing.
“Lift” was inspired by years of traveling the world for the Gates Foundation and meeting women willing to impart valuable lessons. Melinda wondered why women in countries like Africa or Bangladesh were less empowered than they were in the U.S. Then she realized that, in terms of gender equity, even American women aren’t where they should be. Bias was (and is) a universal problem.
If Melinda thought about quitting early in her career, there’s no shame in admitting that we have, too. There’s a reason we admire efficacious women like Melinda and those profiled in PEARLS: WOMEN WHO RADIATE SUCCESS. Indeed, the world sees their headshots, edited bios, and professionally-written résumés. But where the PEARLS are concerned, I felt it critical to document their vulnerabilities, sleepless nights, self-doubts, and fierce commitment.
Beyond the gloss lies a woman who is whole, one brave enough to own her faults and celebrate her strengths; a person whose profound contributions occurred because she rose every time she fell. And, at some point, she felt like quitting.
I hope you have a support system: friends, family, or colleagues who encourage rather than judge. Author Lisa Villa Prosen said, “The happiest people I know are always evaluating and improving themselves. The unhappy people are usually evaluating and judging others.”
The women in my life, especially my mother Marguerite, taught me that feeling like quitting is normal, but moving past your insecurities and fears makes us strong. Do-overs are required.