If there's one thing Melinda Gates wishes everyone knew about her husband, it's that he's a good listener, the kind who can actually be swayed by a compelling argument.
"Bill is very open-minded," she writes in the annual letter they published Tuesday morning, "which isn't necessarily how people perceive him."
He "listens to other people, and lets himself be moved by what they say," she continues. "When I tell a story about what I've seen, he feels it. He might ask me to gather some data for good measure, but he doesn't doubt the reality of my experiences or the soundness of my judgment."
His open-mindedness is one of the reasons the power couple have been able to work together so successfully at the Gates Foundation and avoid major disagreements, says Melinda.
Their non-profit charitable foundation, which has grown to become the world's wealthiest, focuses on improving people's health and education, alleviating poverty and providing resources to women in developing countries.
"As I've thought more deeply about equality for women around the world, I've been proud that Bill and I have achieved it in our life together," writes Melinda. "This is a balance that married couples, and co-workers, all over the world are always trying to strike."
They weren't able to strike that balance right away, she notes: "When Bill first came over to the foundation from Microsoft, he was used to being in charge. I'd stayed home with our kids, so I was restarting my career. There were times I felt that disparity — in meetings when I was reticent and he was voluble, or when the person we were meeting with looked toward Bill and not me."
Over the years, the couple learned how to handle these situations and establish themselves as leaders who shared responsibility. "Bill learned to make room for me to speak up," says Melinda. "And then once I spoke up, it was kind of funny, people went, 'Whoa. She has a lot of credibility. She knows what she's talking about.'"
They also learned to laugh off the particularly extreme cases of gender bias.
Bill affirms that they're equal partners "at home and at work," adding: "Because I've been a public figure longer, and because I'm a man, some people assume I am making the big decisions. That's never been the case."
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