Last week, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, said in a statement that they have decided to end their marriage. The news immediately caused a global sensation.
When my daughter heard that I was going to write a newspaper op-ed to comment on the matter, she made sure to remind me not to focus on the divorce agreement or the handling of the world’s richest couple’s wealth.
Instead of talking about how much money Melinda Gates would get from the divorce, my daughter wanted me to focus on the many sacrifices she has made, and on her many contributions to the world over the years.
When Melinda Gates was 14 years old, she learned computer programming and later developed an interest in developing computer games. She earned a bachelor of arts in computer science and a master’s in business administration from Duke University in the 1980s, and became a marketing manager at Microsoft upon graduation.
It was because of her job at the company that she and then-Microsoft chief executive officer Bill Gates had a chance to get to know each other. They were married several years later, in 1994.
Before the two were married, Melinda Gates was often frustrated by the disrespect her female colleagues experienced in the workplace, and at one point she even considered quitting her job at Microsoft.
She then took the initiative to form a support group for female colleagues at the company, and helped soften the company’s workplace culture, which was dominated by male computer engineers.
Melinda Gates also helped Microsoft launch Encarta, a digital multimedia encyclopedia, in the 1990s. In an era without the search engine giant Google, Encarta fulfilled many people’s need for knowledge.
The same year the couple were married, Melinda Gates temporarily left the workplace to focus on raising their children, and she only resumed public activities again in 2000. That was the year the couple founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and she has served as the foundation’s cochair ever since.
After the COVID-19 pandemic broke out early last year, the foundation donated US$5 million to Chinese medical workers. To fight malaria, it has invented flush toilets that can turn human waste into drinking water, and it has continued to optimize the design from the perspective of actual toilet users.
In Taiwan, a woman working at the Hsinchu Science Park (HSP, 新竹科學園區) early this month published a post on PTT, the nation’s largest online bulletin board, revealing that a fairly well-known mothers’ chatroom dubbed “HSP moms” has very stringent criteria for applicants who want to join the group. The objective is to “prevent low-class people from joining.” Anyone who wants to become a member must have an academic degree from a top public university, or at least three real-estate properties or own their own business.
The conditions have attracted a lot of criticism from Internet users, who bluntly called the HSP moms “bloodsuckers” who merely waste their husbands’ money.
Why don’t the mothers in the group take a look at the values that Melinda Gates has championed?
Li Dao-yong is director of the City South Culture and History Studio.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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