Melinda Gates married a man known for working long hours and, in the past, pushing workers to do the same. Now she says today's 50 hour (or more) workweeks and the lack of family-friendly workplaces are holding back companies, and society as a whole.
Gates laid out her concerns this week in her first post on LinkedIn. She finally joined the social network this month, almost 10 months after Microsoft (founded by her husband, Bill Gates, in case you hadn't heard) officially acquired the social network.
Although she's a little late to the platform, she wasted no time assuming the Influencer role, starting with her condemnation of the American tendency towards regressive workplace policies:
"Astoundingly, we remain a country where just 15 percent of Americans have access to employer-sponsored paid family leave," Gates writes. "And organizations suffer, too, when employees--both male and female--have to dedicate so much energy to simply keeping their heads above water, instead of thinking of ways to create more value. That slows down economic growth and leads to less prosperity for all."
Gates points out that the modern workplace was designed for an era when one member of a household pursued a career while another dedicated all of their time to "the unpaid work of caring for family and tending to the house."
Today, that setup is becoming less common, with more dual-income and single parent households, but the assumption that employees have someone else to take care of the house and family all too often remains.
Gates says this status quo hurts women and minorities the most, which leads to less innovative companies (studies have shown diverse perspectives boost creativity within organizations).
To address the problem, she suggests more pro-family policies like paid family and medical leave.
It's a suggestion that also sheds some light on why it may have taken Gates so long to get around to joining LinkedIn and using it to promote her latest crusade: Somewhere in between the time LinkedIn became a part of Microsoft and now, the company her husband founded got around to expanding its paid leave program for family caregivers.
Gates's advice and Microsoft's example are both worth following if we're all to prosper moving forward.