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Melinda Gates + Kelly Corrigan Talk Big Change

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SXSW 2021
March 18, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
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About speakers

Kelly Corrigan
Host at PBS
Melinda Gates
Co-chair at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

O Magazine calls Kelly Corrigan “the voice of a generation” and HuffPo calls her “the poet laureate of the ordinary.” Her four bestselling memoirs on family life have asked questions about identity, loss and connection. Her work on television and radio brings positive, candid, worthwhile conversations to millions.

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Philanthropist, businesswoman, and global advocate for women and girls. Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Founder of Pivotal Ventures. Author of The Moment of Lift.

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About the talk

For more than two decades, Melinda Gates has been on a mission. Her goal, as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, she has come to a critical conclusion: when we lift up women, we lift up humanity. In conversation with podcaster, PBS host, and bestselling author Kelly Corrigan, Gates will discuss her bestselling book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, and its stories of the empowered women Gates has met over the years. Gates will talk about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s work around family planning, education, and gender equality, and she will call us to action—urging us to drive progress in our homes, workplaces, and communities.

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Hey, I'm Kelly Corrigan and I write books and I also have a podcast called kelly Corrigan wonders and a show on PBS called tell me more with Kelly Corrigan and today I have Melinda Gates as my conversation partner. High high. So good to see your Kelly. Great to see you. So you spent thousands of Days on the Road. Got us have flown a million miles, so I'm pretty sure you're not in the frequent flyer program and you have invested billions of dollars and hundreds of programs. And I feel like that hard-earned expertise is what you have synthesized in the moment of

lift. And this, the way I think of this book is, like, parting with part witness statement and part. How to guide for anybody who wants to make things much better, much faster. So, the headline is gender Equity fixes everything. So, can we just start with the data? Cuz I know you're a big nerd. Could just make the case for why is it? But if you were to achieve gender Equity, you would solve the biggest problems around the globe. Well, we know that women are the center of the family in community, after community and every place in the world. And we know, now from good data that

when a woman gets a dollar in her hand, the way she spends, it is very different than her husband. She will spend it on the family, on their health, on an emergency shock on school fees. And so, we also know that when a young girl is educated, she grows up to be a woman. And she makes different decisions about her life. She pushes back on social Norm, she has better Economic Opportunity and we know. Now that would women participate in the labor force, economies are stronger more robust and grow more quickly and so far all

those and many more reasons we should have bested women and girls. It's like a complete correlation between like a society's wealth and no and women's wealth and he'll totally to stop squirrels from getting an education around the world is often child marriage. And the lack of access to contraception, right? So I thought that in 25 minute, we just had this great podcast conversation. We had a whole hour with you, but today we just have 25 minutes. I thought we kind of

speed rounded and I would give you a set of quotes from your book and let you just rip on them. Oh, great. That'll be fun to starting point for human Improvement is empathy, because I think only, when trying to really understand somebody else's circumstances and put yourself in their shoes. Can you see what where you might work with them? Or their government, or their Community, to help make investments that will lift themselves and their families up? But

so often, I think we think of this as a beneficiary. Somebody I'm going to step in and help know you have to have this empathy for how they live their life, why they lived it the way they have. They got it for very good reasons, but save yourself. What if I was in that situation? What if we were literally sitting on other sides of, it's often a straw mat that, I sit with these women. What if the, the table was turned of them was turning? I was in their situation, what would I want this other person? Coming from the West to know that would help me lift up my family in these circumstances and

came to discover like through questioning Through Time on the map so you could see that. Oh wow, when they're having some ideas about how important it is to get in town and therefore there's a big rush to get the baby away from mother on this. Something that so there isn't an initial breastfeeding and all the sudden just being there, just advertising with your observational skills reveals 5 Solutions and the method. The method is the Mother-in-law. So can you talk a little bit about allies and like how you discover once you get a sense of what the solution to beer a solution to be

who you have to Loop in fridge stick? Yeah, that's a great question. I mean we know that so often a woman or a girl is surrounded by a power structure around her that doesn't often. Let her use her voice or take the right decision or they educate her but not with the right information. And so in any society, you have to look at what the power structure is around her. And quite often in India. Who's her mother-in-law are often, the daughter-in-law is the property of the mother-in-law. And the mother-in-law has seen a lot of death. She seen a lot of babies die.

She has the traditional ways of doing things that she believes keep children. Live some of which definitely do and some may be of which are false. And so when you come in to try and educate, Mother about what might keep her baby more healthy. You have to educate that mother-in-law alongside her. And you have to help the mother-in-law's. See that may be changing. A practice like, giving milk to a baby, even though it looks like the baby maybe is getting dehydrated. The baby can actually get enough milk from its mother but you have to convince the Mother-in-law

of that, if she's going to allow her daughter-in-law to do a new practice such as breastfeeding. And so those power structures are different in different communities around the world. But you got to look at them or you never really will make progress on behalf of girls and women. Okay, my next card is opportunities have to be equal before you now if abilities are equal. Yeah, I think so often we've looked at this at the problem backwards, and what I know, I'm just literally seen the u.s. education system alone is a child from any zip code has

the ability to learn and go on to college if they want to any kid. And what what the difference is, they don't often have the same opportunities. They might not have a great teacher at the front of the classroom that says to him or her know you can learn math. You can learn fractions just as well as the person sitting next to you or they may not have a parent or an uncle or an aunt at home who says, you know, what none of us went to college but you should. And by the way, will help you figure out who might help you apply and where you might go for resources, they just don't have the same

opportunities. A low-income student quite often the high-income student has, and it makes me Norma's difference in their learnings and their outcomes that you give them some of the right support. You make sure they have the same opportunities to the middle or high income kid has And they can absolutely learn just as well. I mean it's this faulty conclusion that we come to where we see correlation but it's not causation and we're so rabid to come to conclusions and conclusions not just about one individual but

about a whole community. So we may say to ourselves, oh, you know, people who are Latin X, maybe I'm just making it up. Can't learn math as well. Well, it's because they were in a community where the taxation system wasn't good. And so, yes, they didn't have the Great Schools in the great teachers, but guess what? They can learn just as well. But we did make a gross assumption about a group of people. When in fact, the problem is Taxation and policy and how we do or don't support the schools in their communities. So this goes to something, you said that I thought was super

interesting because that there's something deeply humble about what you're suggesting and, and you go further in the book and you say, if we're on the inside, tennis Mario, we're in a good school. And we see someone on the outside. We often stay to ourselves. I'm not in that situation because I'm different. And because that's easier than saying, maybe there is deep unfairness woven into the whole system. Can you talk about observing that we often want to say people are others? Or they're Outsiders. Particularly if

it's something we don't want to admit to ourselves. So in your case of an unfair system, so, for instance, I was out in a school in Kentucky, for years ago and I had to say to myself and it was a school. Luckily, I was in one school, that wasn't a very good school and then another public school, where the principal and the teachers and everybody were giving these kids as college-going message. But I had to say to myself. What if I grew up in this school? Would I ever have gone on to college? Who would have told me I should go to college? Maybe I would have been lucky in my parents would

have said that but I would, I have had the teachers who would help me learn what I needed to learn in math and English and reading so that I could do well on well enough, on a placement test to even consider going to college. And so it's by trying to place ourselves in people's shoes and not saying, oh, that would Ever happened to me, but we have to turn the question back on ourselves and say, what if that was me or what is that situation happened to me? What, how would I act, what situation would I then be in and so only in emphasizing with others and not

creating Outsiders. Can we look at these societal values and Norms that are often there? Big gaps in their big inequities? That just need to be addressed that we have it to the society. One of the ways that we in America are probably very different than the way people are in the developing world. Is that most of us do not have six, seven, eight siblings, which means that most of us have a parent or two parents who are Distributing their love and resources on many fewer people, which brings to the table contraception. So you said. Shaming women for their sexuality, is a standard

tactic, for drowning out, the voices of women who want to decide whether and when to have children. And you also said it's, it's especially galling that some of the people who want that money for contraceptives site morality. Can't we believe that an individual if we educate a girl or boy about their body, listen to educate a girl about her body in about the tools that are available for her to use to decide when. And whether to have a child, can't we assume her morality will step in and she'll make a good choice for herself and for her

future children, I think we can. And so often it's the people in positions of power who are pointing fingers at others. As I go they can't make a good decision. Will can you make a good decision? And one of the things I've always been learned as some of those leaders are actually using contraceptives and their families cuz guess what? They often only have two children you know, and so we have to turn the question back on herself but yes, people use all these side arguments morality or these other side arguments. Instead of just going for the main point, which is yes, you educate girls and women

about their bodies, they will make sensible choices. Yeah, and I mean, this is after being with women who say, take my child and if you don't give me contraceptives, you're just teaching my children to steal and then we saw just three days ago. So, huge article in the New York Times about Venezuela, we can catch that is impossible for people. And so, the message is clear, like, people absolutely need to be able to plan their own family, and people would be too much of a burden and many. Many women. I've met in low-income countries will say, this is a life-and-death emergency. I write about

several in the book when women have five children and she said, look, look at my meager means my husband, I can't eat out anything off of this land, I can barely feed the five. I have, it's not fair for me to these children to have another one. If we can't feed another one, the burden on them. But she was saying, why can't I get contraceptives? I used to be able to get them at that little healthcare clinic that we can see from her house. And so you do people make sensible choice. Based on their own lives and situations. And everybody ought to be able to just do that. This is about work.

At today, in the US, were sending our daughters into a workplace that was designed for our dads. Well, you know, we have some catching up to do in the United States. I would so often be traveling in these countries, say in Africa, or Southeast Asian, I would think if we could only get further for women in this country or that country but as I turn the question back on myself and I would be flying home, I would think we're so empowered in the US as women. But then I would look around and say we'll wait a minute that that's not actually true. I mean we

are the only the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't have a paid family medical leave policy. And so, what does that mean? It means that women and girls in our own country, do 90 minutes more a day of unpaid labor than me. That's things like the laundry, feeling The Lunchbox, some of it, loving tasks. We want to do for our children or elderly parents, but some of it's just chores and without a paid family, medical leave policy. What it means is that both women can't stay home at the birth of their child sick. Imagine a single mom who cobbled

together, two days of her vacation to stay home. How could she breast feed her baby? She's just recovering from the pregnancy and the child's not sleeping at night or take the men. You know, is when you travel to Sweden the men scratch their head, what I say to them, we don't have a PayPal, a medically policy in the United States are like the men stay home and they said, because they stay home. They say, I want to be home with my baby is born because I want to participate in his or her life throughout the entire thing, and their social Norm now, because they've had it for so long as

men participate and guess what? They stay then participating to the red. The child's life at a higher rate and they take some of the burden off the women of the chores cuz they see how hard it is. So the US has catching up to do on our entire childcare sector in our caregiving sector and that's a barrier for women. That means that they don't go into labor force or seen during covid-19 today, before syndros, and in the US, that has a lot to do with these caregiving responsibilities. Do you have any hope that, that legislation

will come through in this Administration Administration? I do. So we have more than nine states. Now who have good Paid Family Medical Leave policies. We are finally seeing the Biden ministration believes in it. They understand present by President Biden himself, realizes that caregiving is part of what he calls the infrastructure of rebuilding the economy. You know, he was a Senator who's lost his wife in a young child. Had to raise two boys while he was a Senator. He right? He travel home so I do have hope for that and we're finally seeing the Republican start to step up and put together

put forward some policies and debate them. So I'm encouraged. I think we will get there in the next 4 years. This, this is about listening first, like listening as job one. And I think it's so interesting for our country as well ride because everyone has noted for four years now that we're terribly divided and polarized. And apparently it's not getting better immediately and overnight. But this was their cup is not empty. Can't just pour your ideas into it. They're cup is already full. So you have to understand what is in their cup. When I had I took the ninth grade US History we

had a Vietnam vet. It was our teacher's name is Sam. Holt was incredible and he said you can pass out of this class. If you tell me what all the stories resolve to one thing that they all resolved to people, gas all your lines going to get out of final exam, nobody ever got it but it was it's what people believe that changes the world. Can you talk about the when you have a set of beliefs that are in the cup and then how you should have removed them first before you start deciding what you might want to try to put in there? Yeah, I think you have to first, listen to why people do

the things, they waited, the way they do, or why they believe what they believe. And then it's bringing new ideas in and weighs at least capture people's curiosity, or an interesting. And sometimes it's shifting your own belief in a different area towards there's, but then, bringing in new information, slowly, but surely people will take new practices. So, I see this so often in countries in Africa, where we go in as westerners and we say, oh, but if they only did this or they only had this tool that we have, no, you have to listen to people about why they've done things, the way

they do that, and what's of interest to them first. So there was a, I'll give you an example. There was a community that we wanted to try and help educate about contraceptives and we thought they might be receptive. When we went in and listen to what they cared about the absolute care about babies dying. So we knew contraceptives would help with that. If they could spacer burst, but they also said, the reason babies. Die is we have unclean water, they were wrong. They're unclean water, was killing children, and only after we help them, work on cleaning up the water

and having clean water. Could we done come in and say, you know, there might be some other reasons your babies are dying. Let's work through what those are? They came up with other possibilities. And finally, they also came up with me. We're having these babies too soon, and we don't think we're ready. Then you can introduce the idea of contraceptives. So you have to meet people where they are, and I try to remind people even in the United States. You don't, like, when I grew up, you didn't put babies in car seats in the car. You know, we sat in the front seat under my eyes out of my

dad's lap, you do behind the steering wheel. Exactly. And I had several brothers and sisters. You know, we got put in the backseat but now we know to keep a baby safe in a car, you put the baby in the car seat but that's taken, you know, that regulatory Authority and that took years of educating people. Now, you wouldn't think of taking your baby out in the car and not locking them into that car seat, right? But those are changes that happen over time but I think it's someone else came in and you know Shane doesn't say how dare you not put your baby in a car seat. We're not going to listen

to that. Our belief is, we're doing the right thing for what we know right now globally, you know, at the UN or at the dinner table, shame is not the answer. Always, trust people down. So we're about a year into this crap. Pandemic. What is giving you hope right now? Can you send us out on something good? Gosh. All these small acts of kindness, I mean to me they are drops in the pond. Didn't you see the ripple effect of them there? The you know, family taking care of another person's elderly parent

and making sure they get their prescriptions. I see elderly people going online and counseling others who are even more isolated than they are. I see young people writing, letters to older people. I see young people, making phone calls to grandmothers, and aunts and uncles, who are more homebound right now, people getting groceries for their neighbors who are struggling to like, keep the kids online and keep the job. So it's those acts of goodness and kindness that just keep me optimistic because they do add up and they are what we care about ultimately and it is how we keep one another

safe. Yeah, I mean that this leg evidence of altruism, which isn't a bad thing to have proven in front of our eyes over and over again, that part of our nature is to war and a tribe that part of our nature. Apparently undeniably is altruism and you beautiful line in your book is that love is more urgent than Doctrine. Definitely a whole square around. That one, thanks, I love being with you. I'm so knocked out by your analysis of this, massive Global

situation and your tenacity to just keep going and you can really put your feet up and plan your daughter's wedding but apparently that's not your style and I'm just so impressed. I don't know that I would do the same if I were to do. So God bless you. And thank you. And as such a joy to be with you, thanks for this conversation Kelly. I really enjoyed it.

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