Book notes: The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates book summary review and key ideas.

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates


A debut from Melinda Gates, a timely and necessary call to action for women’s empowerment.

“How can we summon a moment of lift for human beings – and especially for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.”

For the last 20 years, Melinda Gates has been on a mission to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, one thing has become increasingly clear to her: If you want to lift a society up, you need to stop keeping women down. 

In this moving and compelling audiobook, Melinda shares lessons she’s learned from the inspiring people she’s met during her work and travels around the world. As she writes in the introduction, “That is why I had to write this book – to share the stories of people who have given focus and urgency to my life. I want all of us to see ways we can lift women up where we live.”

Melinda’s unforgettable narrative is backed by startling data as she presents the issues that most need our attention – from child marriage to lack of access to contraceptives to gender inequity in the workplace. And, for the first time, she writes about her personal life and the road to equality in her own marriage. Throughout, she shows how there has never been more opportunity to change the world – and ourselves.

Writing with emotion, candor, and grace, she introduces us to remarkable women and shows the power of connecting with one another.

When we lift others up, they lift us up, too.” -Audible

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Opening thoughts:

I think my friend my recommended this book to me and he said it was really good and eye-opening. It sounds interesting and something I probably wouldn’t normally pick up.

Key notes:

  • The “moment of lift” was used to capture a moment of grace
  • Why does in some cases it take so long, and why in some cases as it happen so fast?
    • What takes us past the tipping point when the forces pushing us up overcome the forces pulling us down 
  • Women will win their rights in waves as they become empowered, not one by one or individually

Chapter 1: The Lift of a Great Idea

  • It was a shock to them to realize that millions of children were dying around the world simply because they were poor
    • People in rich countries don’t hear about it
  • The problem of poverty and disease are always connected to each other
    • There are no isolated problems
  • Mothers in the poor countries she visited kept changing the topic to needing contraceptives and family planning resources
    • They couldn’t afford to take care of the children they had in life it’s very tough
  • When women were able to time and space their pregnancies, they were more likely to advance their education, earn an income, raise healthy children, and have the time and money to give their children food, care, and education needed to thrive
    • When children reach their potential, they don’t end up poor
      • This is how families and countries get out of poverty
  • When women get information, tools, funding, and a sense of their power, women lift off and take the group where they want it to go
  • Simple truth: whenever you include a group that has been excluded, you benefit everyone
    • When you’re working globally to include women and girls who are half of every population, you are working to benefit all members of every community
    • Gender equity lifts everyone
  • From higher rates of education and employment and economic growth, to lower rates of teen births, domestic violence and crime, the inclusion and elevation of women correlate to the signs of a healthy society
    • Women’s rights and societies health and wealth rise together
  • Huge idea: if you want to lift up humanity, empower women
    • It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, hi-leveraged investment you can make in human beings 
  • Question: what do you know now in a deeper way than you knew it before?
    • This question honors the way we learn and grow
    • Wisdom isn’t about accumulating more facts, it’s about understanding big truths in a deeper way

Chapter 2: empowering mothers- maternal and newborn health

  • Poverty is not being able to save and protect your family
  • It’s a delicate thing to initiate change in a traditional culture
    • It has to be done with the upmost care and respect
    • Transparency is crucial
    • Grievances must be heard
    • Failures must be acknowledged
    • Local people have to lead
    • Shared goals have to be emphasized
    • Messages have to appeal to people’s experience
    • The practices have to work clearly and quickly, and it’s important to emphasize the science
  • As someone said, you have to understand that peoples cups aren’t empty
    • They are full and have to be understood before they can be emptied and refilled
  • Overcoming the need to create outsiders is our greatest challenge as human beings
    • Excluding others is just a way to protect our own privilege and pride
    • It is one of the greatest causes of inequality

Chapter 3 : Every Good Thing – Family Planning

  • Men try to control the bodies of women because they felt women were made for the service and pleasure of men
    • That’s why they created a stigma around contraceptives and women’s sexuality
  • When women can decide whether and when to have children, it saves lives, promotes health, expands education and create prosperity no matter what country in the world you’re talking about
  • There is no morality without empathy
    • Morality is loving your neighbor as yourself which means trying to ease your neighbors burdens, not trying to add to them

Chapter 4: Lifting Their Eyes – Girls in Schools

  • If you want to excel, do you have to get support from the people around you
    • Very few people can do it alone
  • Equal education moves people towards empowerment, but unequal education does the reverse
    • Unequal education is the most damaging that pushes people to the margins
  • In 2014, Malala became the youngest person ever to win a Nobel peace prize
  • The most transforming force of education for women and girls is changing the self image of the girl who goes to school
    • That is where the lift is
  • The first defense against a culture that hates you is a person who loves you
    • Love is the most powerful and underused force for change in the world
      • Only love can safely handle power
      • For her, love is the effort to help others flourish
        • This often begins with lifting up the persons self image
  • As a girl is given love and support, her self image raises
    • As she gains confidence and skill, she learns how to defend her own rights, develop her gift, and see her own power

Chapter 5: The Silent Inequality – Unpaid Work

  • There’s no country in the world where the gap between men and women’s time doing unpaid work is zero
  • If there is any meaning in life greater than connecting with other human beings, she hasn’t found it
  • In the universal human desire to be happy, to develop our gifts, to contribute to others, to love and be loved, we are all the same
    • Nobody is any better than anyone else, and no one’s happiness or human dignity matters more than anyone else’s
  • For some reason, economist didn’t calculate all of the unpaid work that women do for the household
    • No one pays her for it or count it because it is housework
    • If you paid someone market rates for all the work they did, it would be the biggest sector of the global economy
  • Caring for children or aging parents should be an expression of love
    • It’s can offer us some of the most meaningful moments of our lives
    • But if it’s assumed that women will do all these tasks, then caring that should be joyful becomes a burden, and work that should be shared becomes isolating
  • Let’s see how life improves when we end the false separation between women’s work and men’s work
  • Men who share caregiving duties and childcare responsibilities are happier, have better relationships, happier children
    • They are at lower risk for depression and drug abuse
    • Their kids have higher test scores, higher self esteem, and fewer behavioral problems
  • Stay at home dads show the same brain hormone changes as stay at home moms which suggests that the idea that mothers are biologically more suited to take care of kids isn’t necessarily true
  • Most important question: does your primary relationship have love and respect and reciprocity, and a sense of belonging and teamwork and mutual growth?
    • A marriage can grow and evolve
  • When two people challenge each other and learn from each other, it has an equalizing effect
  • Luck is also a huge ingredient in success
    • Lucky advantages are things we didn’t earn but were given to us
  • They worked hard to shed any hierarchy except for a natural, flexible, alternating hierarchy based on talent, interest, and experience
    • Their various roles in life, past or present should have no effect on an equal partnership in their marriage
  • Women gain equality by changing the culture
    • We can change the culture by sharing our stories
  • The goal is the rise of both women and men from a struggle for dominance to a state of partnership

Chapter 6: When A Girl Has No Voice – Child Marriage

  • Gender-based violence is one of the most common human rights abuses in the world
    • It’s also the most obvious and aggressive way men try to control women
  • The starting point for human improvement is empathy
    • Empathy allows for listening, and listening lead to understanding
  • When you examine old practices to take out bias and add in empathy, everything changes

Chapter 7: Seeing Gender Bias – Women In Agriculture

  • Because the women are in the field, it makes more sense to get them access to resources, tools, and knowledge to produce better yield than men
  • Male-dominated religion play a big part in gender inequality

Chapter 8: Creating A New Culture – Women in the Workplace

  • Opportunities have to be equal before you can know if abilities are equal
  • Diversity is the best way to defend equality
  • Gender diversity is good for anyone who wants results as teams perform better with more diversity

Chapter 9 : Let Your Heart Break – The Lift of Coming Together

  • Empowerment starts with coming together
    • This was illustrated by the sex workers in India organizing and create a system to prevent violence against them
  • If we can face our pain, we can find our voice
    • This is so much easier together
  • The most radical approach to resistance is acceptance
    • Acceptance does not mean accepting the world as it is, it means accepting our pain as it is
  • Great leaders never combined a call for justice with a cry for vengeance
    • Leaders who can master their pain have taken self interest off their agenda so there voice rings with more power
    • They are no longer speaking their truth, they are speaking truth.
  • Every society says its outsiders are the problem, but they are not the problem
    • The urge to create outsiders is the problem
  • We all want to have something to offer
    • This is how we belong and how we feel included
    • If we want to include everyone, we have to help everyone develop their talents and use their gifts for the good of the community
    • Inclusion means everyone is a contributor
      • And if they need help to be a contributor then we should help them because they are full members of a community that supports everyone
  • Women groups are beneficial individually and for society
    • Because progress depends on inclusion and inclusion begins with women
    • This isn’t as opposed to men and boys, but along with them and on behalf of them
      • It is about bringing women in as a way to bring everyone in 
  • Equality is a milestone, not the summit
    • The supreme goal for humanity is not equality but connection
    • People can be equal but still isolated, not feeling the bonds that tie them together
      • Equality without connection misses the whole point 
  • The goal is for everyone to be connected, to belong, to be loved
    • Love is what lifts us up
  • Seeing ourselves as others is the moment of lift

Main ideas / Themes:

  • When children reach their potential, they don’t end up poor
  • Whenever you include a group that has been excluded, you benefit everyone
  • Gender equality lifts everyone
  • Women’s rights and societies health and wealth rise together
  • Overcoming the need to create outsiders is our greatest challenge as human beings
  • When women can decide whether and when to have children, it saves lives, promotes health, expands education and create prosperity no matter what country in the world you’re talking about
  • There is no morality without empathy
  • Equal education moves people towards empowerment
  • Only love can safely handle power
  • In the universal human desire to be happy, to develop our gifts, to contribute to others, to love and be loved, we are all the same
  • The goal is the rise of both women and men from a struggle for dominance to a state of partnership
  • Diversity is the best way to defend equality
  • The supreme goal for humanity is not equality but connection
  • Seeing ourselves as others is the moment of lift

Closing thoughts:

I really liked this book. I wasn’t expecting to like this book that much going in, but I should have known based on my friend’s recommendation and the reviews. Melinda Gates is such a worldly, compassion, intelligent, empathetic, and very thoughtful person. I really appreciate her perspective and her consideration. Despite being very wealthy, she seems to have a very grounded and humble perspective. I’m inspired that she chooses to do the work she does to help make the world a better place.

Personally, I didn’t know that gender inequality had such a massive negative effect on the entire world. I knew that gender inequality was a societal problem and it’s inherently bad. However, I didn’t know for example that something as simple as having access to contraceptives had a dramatic effect on communities and economies. And how something as simple as that can drastically change the lives of thousands if not millions of people.

The eye-opening metaphor for me was that not addressing gender inequality is like having society tie one hand behind their back. It basically prevents us from reaching our full potential just because we don’t strive to establish equal opportunity for all.

It’s also crazy how there’s such a strong correlation between a country’s prosperity and it’s gender equality. I think countries try to address this at a higher level, society will absolutely become more prosperous. The key that Melinda notes is to overcome are own fear and the need to create outsiders. It’s all about connection.

Overall, fantastic book. I don’t like always saying that I recommend this book to pretty much everyone, but I really do recommend this for pretty much everyone. Especially people who care about culture, society, politics, etc.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

There were so many good takeaways from this book. I was back and forth on a handful of good ones, but I think the most practical and powerful takeaway I can get from this book (worded in many different ways) is:

  • Seeing ourselves as others is the moment of lift
  • The supreme goal for humanity is not equality but connection
  • Only love can safely handle power

Okay so I chose 3 lines, but they all basically underscore the importance of empathy. The more we connect with and empathize with others, the more society improves as a whole.


Melinda Gates shows us that in her pursuit to make a difference, she discovered how important it is to address gender equality in the world. She finds that empathy and connection is what’s necessary to make the world a better place.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.


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