Live from SF! And Melinda Gates

Published February 26, 2016.

Aminatou: Hi everyone! This is a very special episode of Call Your Girlfriend recorded live at the JCC in San Francisco.

Ann: And I don't know, I haven't -- have you watched the live stream of our show yet Amina?

Aminatou: No, I'm never going to watch it.

Ann: Me neither, so I'm sort of like it should be interesting if I listen to this later because I have pretty much blocked out the entire experience.

Aminatou: I know. It was really fun though, like seeing everybody with their bestie in the audience. It was really cool.

Ann: Oh my god, it was like a full-on bestie prom.

Aminatou: I know. We had wine onstage so obviously everything worked out.

Ann: Anyway, also after you listen to this live episode we have an interview with Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation about her recently-published annual letter, and this year they're focused on this idea of time poverty which is basically a way of explaining that women around the world do way more work than men that they are not paid for.

Aminatou: And the exciting part is that we get to ask if her and Bill have heard Beyoncé's Formation. [Laughs]

Ann: Oh my god, nothing like asking Melinda Gates about the black Bill Gates line. We did it. We're here for you, everyone. You have to listen.

Aminatou: This is serious journalism.

Ann: Serious journalism, but first listen to our live show in San Francisco.


Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: Ugh, yes. A podcast for long-distance besties and IRL besties everywhere and in San Francisco.

Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.

Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman.

Aminatou: And this week on our agenda . . .

Ann: We have a current events discussion including dead Justice Scalia, period pain, and what is up with Kanye? [Laughter] And tips for surviving diet culture.

Aminatou: It's going to be a fun night, I promise.

Ann: Yeah, definitely.

[Theme Song]


Aminatou: I'm already feeling a lot better. This is . . .

Ann: Wine and Robyn, curative.

Aminatou: Wine and Robyn. Okay, I mean, Ann, Justice Scalia. What's going on?

Ann: Okay, Justice Scalia not super relevant to us normally, I mean except for being terrible. Mostly relevant because he is the BFF of Ruth Bader Ginsburg who we love. This is them on an elephant in India.

Aminatou: This trip is so amazing, because one, who pays for this stuff?

Ann: Supreme Court junk -- no one talks about it.

Aminatou: Yeah, it's like who paid for the elephant? I don't even want to ask. But the best part is somebody tried to jam up RBG about this and they were like "Don't you think it's bad for feminism that you're sitting in the back?" [Laughter] And she's just like real talk, and she was like actually this had a lot to do with weight distribution. [Laughter] This is what's going on here.

Ann: Yeah, all the bigotry is really heavy. You want to keep it centered on the elephant.

Aminatou: You want it keep it centered. But, you know, RIP to Justice Scalia. Mostly we feel for our girl RBG.

Ann: Right. Who we do care about in this story.

Aminatou: So this week she wrote this really sweet letter about him and, you know, really sad, like "We were the best of buddies," and called out the special friendship that they had. I don't know. That's relevant to us. Sometimes you have to work with people that you don't love.

Ann: Or you have that friend who says things sometimes and you're like what? That's the most fucked-up thing. Anyway . . .


Aminatou: Yeah. I'm trying to -- but I'm really trying to remember when is the last time I had to work with a Republican person? I don't know. [Laughter]

Ann: This is a real -- another reason why RBG is a goddess.

Aminatou: She's a goddess. But real shout out to Scalia. I was reading up on him and what he said about working with people that he disagrees with and it made me really happy. He was like if you can't disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends get another job for Pete's sake.

Ann: For Pete's sake.

Aminatou: Classic Scalia. [Laughter]  So we will miss him, kind of, not really, but we feel for RBG.

Ann: Condolences to RBG. Yeah.

Aminatou: Moving along.

Ann: Okay, so you know we could not have a live event without talking about periods. [Cheering] This is just going to keep going so get used to it. The story of periods, right? Anyway, so we both read an article in Quartz this week about intense period pain.

Aminatou: It just -- it hit too close to home.

Ann: What is it called? It has a name and I'm bad at pronouncing it.

Aminatou: Oh, what? Oh, dysmenorrhea?

Ann: Thank you.

Aminatou: That's what I call it. Ask your doctor.

Ann: Ask your doctor about it. One in five women suffer from this according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Apparently only one in five. I think it's probably more.

Aminatou: Probably. It's like one in five are telling their doctors.

Ann: Right. So it was this article about how doctors are like yeah, it's not that bad. A doctor interviewed by Quartz said doctors learn in medical school that when women complain of serious menstrual pain, they advise doctors to say "Just take some ibuprofen." Or if it's really bad take the birth control pill and that's it. It's not really . . .

Aminatou: Basically play through the pain.

Ann: Play through the pain. I mean four Ibuprofen is play through the pain.

Aminatou: Yeah.

Ann: How many have you had today?

Aminatou: Eight Ibuprofen. [Laughter]

Ann: At one point we were both -- I threw out my neck watching Netflix, not even joking, so I can't really turn to the right. I had to put Amina on my left.

Aminatou: Ann's range of motion is very limited today.


Ann: Very limited. I brought a heating pad with me. Anyway, so we've both been taking a lot of Ibuprofen and it's not real . . .

Aminatou: This pain is real.

Ann: Right. This is our first wine today though, so maybe we'll . . .

Aminatou: I know. That was the problem, maybe.

Ann: Anyway, so the point of this article, the pain is will. No one takes women seriously when they say it's real. And when they actually do studies it's comparable to a heart attack or a slipped disc so maybe my neck is relevant here. Anyway, really serious pain.

Aminatou: I know. So I guess the takeaway for this for me is if you are a woman who suffers from really bad period pain talk to your doctor about it because these fools are not doing any real studies on this stuff.

Ann: Right.

Aminatou: They're just like "We don't know. It could be XYZ." And it's because we're not telling them that we're in a lot of pain, but also uteruses, they're like tough.

Ann: Way to go, ladies.

Aminatou: Anybody -- women are the toughest people in the world. You can't convince me otherwise.

Ann: Yeah. And I feel like there are stories all the time that are about how there's no research about things that exclusively affect women or disproportionately affect women.

Aminatou: Classic patriarchy.

Ann: Classic. A recurring theme, yeah, you'll notice.

Aminatou: Okay, so talk to your doctors and we'll check back in.

Ann: Right, or tell your doctor you need more than an Ibuprofen. Anyway, okay, great. And finally I have some questions about what is going on with Kanye. So, okay, serious question . . .

Aminatou: Asking me?

Ann: Yeah, obviously. Who else would I ask?

Aminatou: There are many Kanye experts in this audience.

Ann: I know. I decided to open it up to the audience right now. So, is he having some kind of mental health incidence or is it clever PR for his new album?


Aminatou: [Sighs] Okay. Here is my diagnosis. From listening to the album it is quite clear that Kanye is off his Lexapro.

Ann: Okay!

Aminatou: This is one thing that is true. Mental health is very serious and clearly he's in a high-pressure situation. Counter-point, Kanye's also a crazy person. Just with nothing . . . 

Ann: Even with the Lexapro?

Aminatou: Yes, he's an attention-seeking human. The thing that's kind of been fascinating though is realizing which tweets he's writing and which tweets Kim is feeding him because . . . [Laughter]

Ann: Kim did not write Bill Cosby is innocent.

Aminatou: No, Kim did not do that. That was personally very hard with me. I struggled greatly with buying my own . . .

Ann: I almost sent you . . .

Aminatou: Did not buy it. But so yeah, so Kim is writing some of these tweets and she's leaving edit notes in there and he doesn't get it. She's just like parenthesis, say fathers or dads or something like that, and he still tweets it.

Ann: He just tweets it. Who knew Kim was an editor? Hidden talents.

Aminatou: Kim is an editor. She's a UN peacekeeping ambassador as we have seen from all of her beautiful selfies with enemies. She's doing the Lord's work. So yes, so pray for Kanye. Pray for Kanye but also stay entertained.

Ann: So none of it is intentional to sell his new album?

Aminatou: I don't think he's that clever. He's like literally having a meltdown.

Ann: Okay. And therefore do you feel like when all of us are like "Are you kidding?" and are upset by things that he says, that we are not helping him get the mental health he needs?

Aminatou: Yes, he's just like this is a regular Tuesday in Calabasas. He doesn't understand.

Ann: Also how is North West holding up?

Aminatou: You know, North and Saint, I pray for them.

Ann: Saint is too young to really know what's happening.

Aminatou: I know. That's our Kardashian-West update.

Ann: Right.

Aminatou: Don't worry. There will be more news probably by the time this is over.

Ann: I know. People keep tweeting and saying "Will you address this Kanye tweet and this one?" And it's like we . . .


Aminatou: We don't run a breaking news operation here. [Laughter]

Ann: Seriously. Maybe in text exchanges but not in a public-produced form . . . like we can't get Gina to come produce us every time Kanye tweets something. It's tough.

Aminatou: Yeah, just give it a year then we'll all look back and see what happens.

Ann: Wow, maybe we can follow the arc and learn some things.

Aminatou: I know. You know, yes, stay emotionally implicated. We'll check back in.

Ann: Great. Okay.

Aminatou: Awesome.

[Music and Ads]


Aminatou: Wherever we're going, this is going to be very tenuous.

Ann: I'm very excited. We have a special guest tonight and we get to welcome someone else to the page.

Aminatou: I know.

Ann: A very special guest. She is the creator of Lose Hate, Not Weight. You may have heard her as a guest on a phone-a-friend episode of our very podcast or read her book Hot and Heavy, Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, and Fashion. P.S., you can also buy it in the lobby after this. It's Virgie Tovar! Please clap for her. 



Virgie: Hey guys! Okay, so I thought that I would go over survival tips for the dietpocalypse. Because dieting and overcoming diet culture and smashing patriarchy, they're all really relevant to what we're discussing this evening. So survival tip number one, recognizing that dieting suuuuucks. I always like to tell people about some of the history of modern-day diet culture so we can all understand just how whacky dieting in fact is.


Before Richard Simmons and Susan Powder and Oprah's proclamations of loving bread there was another man who also loved bread. He went by the moniker the prophet of brand bread and he was a pivotal leader of the dietary reform movement. His name was Reverend Sylvester Graham and he was born in 1794. He's left his mark on food history with the invention of his namesake food, the graham cracker. Yes, which in his day was actually more bland than its current iteration.

His lesser-known though equally riveting works include a treatise on bread and breadmaking and a lecture to young men in which he excoriates masturbation and recommends curing the more acute sinners among us with circumcision done so aggressively that it makes erections painful for life. And for those with clitorises who were chronic masturbators he recommended the administration of pure carbolic acid. So he's -- I know, right? He's like an unleavened bread enthusiast and also a circumcision advocate.

You know, it's funny because the connection isn't actually as distant as you'd think. Graham believed that through food we could control morality. His followers posited a strong link between diet, health, and morality. Sound familiar? Almost all of the principles of modern-day dieting date back over 200 years, or a little bit less than actually, concocted in the brain of a clitoris-hating dick butcher who loved bread, you guys. [Laughter]


Diet culture does one thing very successfully: it alienates us from our natural relationship to food and movement, things that we as human beings have had a relationship to since the beginning of time and in which we can't live without, and it sells them back to us as diet and exercise with the promise that with hard work and self-denial we can achieve a state worthy of love, respect, and admiration.

Number two, smash your scale. Back when I was still dieting and weight-cycling I used to weigh myself at least once a day, and I'm sure many of us know this ritual, right? It involved removing all my clothing, my shoes, drying my hair out completely if it was wet, making sure I peed before stepping on the scale. This ritualistic behavior is neurotic but I did it because I truly believe that weight loss was a panacea. Each pound lost represented a step closer to the life I was sure I could earn if I worked hard enough. Each pound gained represented a stultifying failure. The number on my scale had the power to determine the outcome of my day, each shifting number an epic drama with the unfolding of my life at stake. I had handed over my life to an inanimate machine, sure that it was the arbiter of my worth, sure that one day it would finally tell me "Now you can wear a bikini. Be happy. Wear bright pink lipstick, a short skirt. Now you can be beautiful. Now you can live your life." But that day never came.

When I finally decided to stop dieting forever, one of the first things I did was throw out my scale. Why? Because we need to decouple our weight from our personal worth and recognize that we can live the life we want right now at our current size. Yeah. And anyone who says otherwise has got to go, boo. As Dolly Parton once said about somebody who said her hair was too big, "You don't need that kind of negativity in your life." [Cheering]


Number three, wear what you want. As San Francisco fat activist Marilyn Juan once said, what a person is allowed to wear in a society says a great deal about who a person is allowed to be in that society. So I say take back the power, wear the things that scare you and fuck flattering.

I'm going to read you a little section on the subject from my book Hot and Heavy really quick. "The tag says no, but the stretch says yes." [Laughter] "If they didn't want a fat girl to wear it, they wouldn't have put spandex in it." I think that's all you need to know. [Laughter]

Number four, your body, your business. So in 2014 Huffington Post published an article written by Emma Gray. She describes an incident that occurred while she was walking from a frozen yogurt shop to the subway on a summer evening. A complete stranger yells at her "Hey girl, you shouldn't be eating that. You're going to get fat." From the article, quote, "It took me a moment to register that the girl the man was yelling at was me, a 26-year-old medium-sized woman leisurely strolling across town after a late-night stop at 16 Handles, arms only with a healthy serving . . ." There's a 16 Handles fan. I love it. "Arms only with a healthy serving of froyo and an assortment of toppings. Once I realized I was being spoken to I stopped in my tracks, too shocked to do anything but turn and look at the man who had interrupted my I'm so happy I'm eating these delicious ice cream-like processed chemicals internal monologue. He responded with a leering look and a nod. I walked away, my cheeks flushed with shame, instantly reverting to the most insecure version of myself."


The article was entitled "Public food shaming is the insidious type of street harassment no one is talking about." Gray went on to analyze this experience as an extension of gendered street harassment, an exercise in paternalistic control over women's bodies, and our public comings and goings. Diet culture and the war on obesity have deputized ordinary citizens in the name of public health. Well I say no more. Your body is not public property. Your body is not a democracy. Your body is yours. You have the right to defend your body, love your body, or refuse unsolicited opinions and remind people to mind their manners. Your body is fine right now, whatever size it is, and don't listen to anybody who tells you any differently.

I'm going to tell you a quick story. I was on the subway one time, or the Muni, and this woman whispered to her boyfriend that I was too fat to wear the amazing outfit that I had on. And I'm like you hit that crossroad moment where you can take the high road which I think is oversold to oppress people. [Cheering] Don't take the motherfucking high road. No. So I was like okay, I'm going to take this moment to have a feminist teaching moment, okay? So I walk over to her and I was like I'm not going to degrade this person. I was like "I just want to let you know that what you said wasn't okay, that I can wear whatever I want -- you don't need to be threatened by me -- and I look good." [Cheering] Then I sat down next to her and we went all the way down to the Pacific Ocean where I live. It was 45 minutes. I loved every fucking second.


She was just like . . . she was stonewalling me. She was cuddling up on her boyfriend, refusing to recognize -- I was like no, whatever. I can't force her to respond, but girl got the picture. She's going to think twice about saying some shit. All right, final tip, eat what you want. I used to think that food existed with only one intention: to ruin my life. Cupcakes used to laugh at me. This is like diet-induced thinking. If anybody's been on a diet, you know food talks to you. Doritos used to point their pointy chip edges at me. Iceberg lettuce used to beckon me like a leafy siren, promising to quench my hunger for ribs. Grocery shopping and eating out were like eating a house of horrors, filled with the things I couldn't have.

We believe that with food we can control the size of our bodies and therefore control the outcome of our lives. Eating becomes an exercise in anxiety when it should be an exercise in delight. Did you know that when you are happy when you're eating you actually absorb more of the nutrients in food? Yes, our mental state can affect what our body does with what goes into our mouths. Carrots are great but so is cannoli. I need everyone to realize that food isn't good or evil. It doesn't have the ability to ruin or make your day. We give it that power and we can take it away. Everyone deserves to have a 100% shame-free relationship to food. This shame-free relationship is our birthright.

So let's take back the plate, reclaim the pasta, reinstate tiramisu to its rightful place, and proudly go where no dieter has gone before, my friends. I want to end my part here tonight by helping us celebrate food, glorious food. If you can, I'd like you to stand up and take an oath with me. Now put your hand over your heart or your belly. Let's put it on our bellies, you guys. What was I thinking about hearts? And take this pledge with me. Repeat after me. [Audience repeating as well] "I pledge allegiance to the cake of the United Steaks of America. And to the risotto for which it stands, one nation under flan, indivisible, with linguini and jambalaya for all." Amen, friends. [Cheering]



Aminatou: Thanks for tuning in for the live show and for all the support from the JCC, especially to our pal Jordan Able and Tuey Tran and Ben Bernardi and the entire tech team. Everybody was so fantastic and nice to us. Could not have pulled it off without them.

Ann: And if you want to experience a version of that live show for yourself we have a couple of tickets left for our show in L.A. on March 7th and we have tickets as well for April 10th in D.C. where we're doing another live episode.

Aminatou: You know, to be fair this is just portions of our live show. For the entire thing you're going to have to come catch us in person.

Ann: Some of it just does not translate. We had some special new features that were live-only.

Aminatou: I know, it was fun. Come see us.

Ann: And we were excited to have a chance to interview Melinda Gates this week. Her annual husband with her husband and foundation cofounder Bill -- white Bill Gates -- was published this week, so we wanted to bring you that conversation this week which is why there's that weird mash-up of our live show and that interview.

Aminatou: Yeah, and so we'll be back next week with a phone-a-friend episode and the week after that back to your regularly scheduled Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: Now stay tuned and listen to Melinda as we ask about Formation and about unpaid labor.

[Interview Starts]


Melinda: Hi, this is Melinda.

Ann: Hi Melinda!

Aminatou: Hello! This is Amina. Thank you so much for joining us.

Melinda: Glad I could do it.

Ann: We read your letter with great interest. We have so many questions for you but we're going to try to keep it succinct.

Melinda: Okay.

Aminatou: Yeah, as Ann said we read the letter and in this annual letter you write that women and girls collectively spend billions more hours than men and boys on unpaid labor. That's crazy. It's such a crazy statistic to hear. How do you even go about quantifying what this means in terms of economic terms?

Melinda: Well, McKenzie's actually done a great study of this and when they look at the unpaid work that women do at home -- and by unpaid work I mean both the caring things we want to do, caring for children and the elderly, but all the chores, it could add over ten trillion dollars to the GDP. And so that's really pretty amazing.

Ann: Wow, so okay, given . . . when I read about this as well, I was like this resonates with me. This makes a lot of sense. I have a mom. I have a grandma. I know how this goes down. But the problem just seems so big and in some ways baked in and intertwined with patriarchy itself, so when you guys start thinking about steps towards beginning to try to solve it where do you begin in being proactive on it?

Melinda: Well, as I write about in the letter, economists really break it down into three areas. They call it the three Rs. First, recognize that there's a problem. Second is to reduce it, and you can do that by a lot of innovations and labor-saving devices. But the third then is to redistribute the work, to not only have those conversations in our home but actually to role model them in societies. And so it takes those sometimes policies to change, it takes innovations, and then it takes changes in our homes and redistributing the work to make it actually happen.

Ann: But I'm curious about whether structurally-speaking there are some things that have to do with paid family leave, and on a policy level we live in a country that has pretty terrible policies when it comes to supporting women's ability to do paid rather than unpaid labor. Aside from the things that are about modeling relationships and behavior in the home, how much do you think -- is this really a policy question?


Melinda: I think it's both, and I think on the policy level first of all we need to label this what it is: it's work. All this unpaid work that happens in the home, let's call it work. Let's measure it. Let's measure it as part of GDP. Today we're building our economies on the back of this unpaid work without even talking about it, so that's the first thing. The second in terms of policy though is exactly what you said, great family paid medical leave. And so that is if you have a couple or a partnership and either he or she has elderly parents, that they can take time off from work to care for elderly parents. We've all got them, right? And when you have a young child either person in the partnership can take care of the young child. We know with great family medical leave policies that you see in western Europe it makes an enormous difference for women being actually able to work and contribute to society if they're not alone in doing this basically second shift.

Aminatou: Thank you so much for articulating that because I think that that's a conversation that we have a lot on our show, right? And really making that distinction between personal behaviors people can have but also the policy issue. Another thing that you write in the letter is our interest in time and energy are separate from our foundations work on health and poverty but it's all related. Solving these problems will make it easier to save lives and make the world are more equitable place. We're curious, is there another way you'd like to address this particular issue also if it's not through the foundation?

Melinda: Well I use my voice these days both behind things that affect the developed world and the developing world. With the foundation we're really focused on the developing world. We see where this inequity exists. It's what locks women into poverty. We even talk about poverty being sexist because if you don't address all this unpaid work in the developing world you lock women and girls into a cycle of poverty.


But I also these days am using my voice in the developed world to say exactly what you just said: we're not far enough along in the US. I mean the fact that we don't have one of the most progressive paid family leave medical policies, we're actually way behind the times when I'd rather see the US actually be out in front on this issue. We are one of the most developed nations in the world.

Aminatou: Was that something that kind of naturally came about or do you think when you were setting up the foundation years ago you saw this as one of the ten poles of what your work would be? Or is this a new kind of development and thinking?

Melinda: Well, one of the things I like to say about my work at the foundation and Bill's is it's a learning journey for us. And as I've been out, I've been lucky enough to travel for the last 15 years with the foundation all over the world. You can't turn away from it. I see it time and time again, especially when I spend a lot of time on the ground in the developing world, women carrying water. Women spend 125 million hours a day globally carrying water. You can't turn your back on that.

And so as I started to see it in the developing world and recognizing the issue, then when I came back to the US I had to say to myself well how far along are we here? So for me it's been really a coming to this issue. I started by looking at the developing world, but then when I came back to the US I said my gosh, we have work to do in our own backyard as well so it became both.

Ann: Yeah, and speaking of our own backyards, I know you have kids which is super time-consuming. I assume you also have other family commitments. But also you have a lot of economic advantages. I wonder how this issue is personal for you, like if it directly affects your life in any way.

Melinda: It's absolutely personal for me and I think even though I'm incredibly lucky, as is Bill, we only have though -- as all men and women around the world -- 24 hours in our day, right? And so I look at this issue and I say okay, what do I need to do in my own home? We have three children, ages 13, 16, and 19. What do I do to role-model the right behavior in our home? What things do I need to negotiate and ask for in our marriage so I make sure that I'm not doing the second shift at home, that Bill and I are both distributing the workload together at work because we actually work together which is actually quite fun, and we parent our kids at home. So those are ongoing negotiations that happen as you make all of these life transitions. And as the kids -- when you first have kids, and then as they're growing up, then as they get older, you have to kind of re-ask at times and point out what's actually going on.

Aminatou: Yeah.


Ann: I'm curious, what is one of those things that you've had to ask for? Or insist on.

Melinda: Sure. Well one of the things was as the kids got a little bit older, after dinner one of the things that we made sure we did is we all cleaned up the table after dinner. We all washed the dishes, put out the garbage. But I realized when the kids were young that for whatever reason I was still hanging around in the kitchen doing a few last-minute things while everybody else would run off upstairs and Bill would go back to his desk. And I finally said one night after dinner, I said "Okay, here's the new rule of the house: nobody leaves the kitchen until I leave the kitchen." And guess what happened? All of a sudden that work happened really fast.

Aminatou: Yes!

Melinda: And they all figured out what the other things were that they needed to do and we all would go upstairs at the same time. And so it was me asking for it and saying this isn't right. Then they went oh, yeah, what else should we be doing?

Ann: That's awesome.

Aminatou: That's so awesome. I like that that's both of our reactions. That's awesome.

Melinda: [Laughs]

Aminatou: This question to me, it's a little personal. I work in tech. I know that you graduated with a computer science degree and you participated in the development of a lot of Microsoft products while you worked there. I'm a black woman in technology. Sometimes it is very, very, very lonely. And I was wondering what you think we can do to both encourage more girls to encourage STEM careers but also retain the women that are already here because a lot of my peers are either thinking about dropping out or they feel that it's not something that's worth their time to hang into. And that's a little depressing to me.


Melinda: I think this is an issue that really needs to be addressed in STEM, and in particular in technology and computer science, because you're seeing girls readily now participate in the other sciences, right? In biology they're coming up and physics and chemistry. But it's still quite pervasive in the tech sector that you're not having girls -- they're starting to come out of college, but there's still a gap there. But then when they get into the tech sector they're still dropping out. So to me it says we have both a pipeline issue, you've got to get young girls thinking about tech, you've got to role model for them. They've got to be able to see oh, there's a woman in tech I want to be like. I want to be cool like her. Not that it's just a boys thing. And there have to be lots of role models in tech. Three dozen different female styles that they can look up and say "I want to be like that one and not like that one," right?

So role model it, then you have to make sure you encourage it both at middle school, at high school. You've got to get it in with the teachers so they're teaching it appropriately and role modeling it with girls. Then you've got to make sure that the tech sector is welcoming, that when they get into the tech sector they don't run into what we call the 10,000 papercuts where there are all these slights and they think gosh, this just isn't an industry that I want to be in. All of those things need to be revealed and discussed and quite frankly rooted out. Then it will be a welcoming place for young girls to want to have a career and stay. And I think it's really important when you think about all the innovations that are coming. We have to have women and girls participating in those. You don't want it to be a field that's just one gender.

Aminatou: Do you think that there's any company right now or any efforts that you're seeing that are really successful? Because we have a lot of people who listen to our show who are in STEM and they're all very curious about who's doing this right already.


Melinda: Well I think a lot of the things that Marc Benioff is doing at his company where he is role modeling and he's role modeling transparency, he's saying I'm really looking at how far women are getting in their careers at Why are they making it to certain levels and not making it through those? How do we go about making sure that there aren't these hurdles? And then how do we make sure we pay women equally? He's been very vociferous about not just talking about it but actually taking action and putting money behind that and I think he's role modeling how to do it inside a tech company and do it in the right way.

Aminatou: That's awesome. Thank you.

Ann: Okay. And this is sort of a fun last question but we could not have this conversation with you without asking. Have you heard Beyoncé's Formation?

Melinda: I have heard it but I'm not very good at dancing to it.

Ann: No, no, no. This is a podcast.

Aminatou: Same here.

Ann: Luckily we don't have to dance on it. But we're curious how you feel about the black Bill Gates line.

Melinda: Well, we had to actually . . . Bill and I heard it and we kind of scratched our heads when we first -- we were like hmm? Then we took it to the dinner table at night with the kids and they're like "Oh, dad's talked about in lots of rap music. It's fine mom and dad." [Laughs] So we're just rolling with it.

Ann: So they made you feel better about it?

Melinda: Absolutely.

Aminatou: Thank you so much for joining us, Melinda. We really appreciate it. I think that this topic is very near and dear to the hearts of so many women and it's great to see somebody in your position finally start to talk about this and really get the ball rolling.

Melinda: Well thanks Amina, and thanks Ann for having me. It was great that we got to talk about these issues.

[Interview Ends]

Ann: All right, you can find us many places on the Internet, on our website You can download our show on the ACast app or on iTunes where it would be awesome if you left us a review. You can also tweet at us at @callyrgf or email us at And you can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.

Aminatou: Gina!

Ann: Gina. [Laughs]

Katie: Hi Amina and Ann! My name is Katie Seteska and I'm calling from Portland, Oregon. I just wanted to call and say I'm so appreciative of your podcast and truly every week it's almost like I listen to Call Your Girlfriend, I go into my weekend, then I debrief with my friends about the podcast and it's this cool level of our friendship where we come together and talk but we're talking about topics that were covered on your podcast and have been following you guys since the beginning. I actually heard about you through a friend who heard about you from another friend. So it's been this really cool cycle of women in my life coming together and coming towards being more evolved and being better people. I really appreciate that and I really appreciate both of you. Thank you and keep doing what you're doing. I hope one day to come to a live show. That would literally be the best ever. Anyway, keep doing what you're doing. Thanks. Bye.