May 17, 2021

"Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates met at work. He was technically her boss. He ran Microsoft..."

"... and she began working there in 1987 as a product manager the year after she graduated from college. Throughout their relationship, the two have played up the cute aspects of their office romance. He flirted with her when they sat together at a conference, then asked her out when they ran into each other in a company parking lot, according to Ms. French Gates, who described their relationship’s beginnings during a public appearance in 2016. Long after they married in 1994, Mr. Gates would on occasion pursue women in the office.... Six current and former employees of Microsoft, the foundation and the firm that manages the Gates’s fortune said those incidents, and others more recently, at times created an uncomfortable workplace environment. Mr. Gates was known for making clumsy approaches to women in and out of the office.... Some of the employees said... he did not pressure the women to submit to his advances for the sake of their careers, and he seemed to feel that he was giving the women the space to refuse his advances. Even so, Mr. Gates’s actions ran counter to the agenda of female empowerment that Ms. French Gates was promoting on a global stage. On Oct. 2, 2019, for example, she said she would spend $1 billion promoting 'women’s power and influence in the United States.'"

From "Long Before Divorce, Bill Gates Had Reputation for Questionable Behavior/Melinda French Gates voiced concerns about her husband’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and a harassment claim against his money manager. He also had an affair with an employee" (NYT).

Imagine spending a billion dollars to promote a message — to bullshit the masses — while you are blithely violating that message within your personal business realm, where people are trying to make their own little living. What royal hypocrisy! 

I don't know the facts first hand, and maybe none of these allegations against Bill Gates are true, but it seems that Melinda Gates — Ms. French Gates — is wisely choosing to disengage her reputation from his. She wants a feminist message? She's got to lop him off.

AND: It's so interesting, these marriages that begin in a workplace setting. Do they not originate in interactions like the interactions that become the evidentiary basis for claims that there is a discriminatory hostile workplace? But the success of the relationship makes all the difference. This one interaction grew into a marriage. I think of all the professors who are married to former students. That seems so nice for the lovely couple — we participate in the playing up of the cute aspects — but what's in the larger picture? Was it just that one magic student who was perceived as wifely material? We gamely presume so, we with our enjoyment of cute aspects.


Ann Althouse said...

Lucien emails:

You want hypocrisy, try marrying a guy you met at the office and then being shocked, shocked, that he engaged in office romance.

Melinda Gates must have been running counter to her ideas of female empowerment and influence. Everyone knows that no matter how powerful and influential women are, they don’t have enough individual agency to stand up against a coworker or superior’s expression of interest. Lop them off!

Ann Althouse said...

Kate emails:

I'm remembering an article written in the last year about Melinda Gates and four other rich women whose philanthropy choices are changing society. Mackenzie Bezos was one of them, but when I google I only get divorce news for these two.

The amount of power these women have because of their money is frightening. They all became uber-wealthy by marrying well. They built nothing except a marriage, and that venture has proven to be a failure. A post-menopausal woman with unlimited resources, zero accountability, and an axe to grind is a bad formula for society. They truly have the leverage to change the world, and their vision is narrow and angry.

French Gates is trying to win the PR game by telling her sob story before he can tell his version. Gates plucked her from obscurity, let her loose on the world, and then failed to clean up his mess. He's already let her hint he was a pedophile. I hope he financially and socially ruins her, but it's most likely too late for that.

Ann Althouse said...

Ozymandias emails:

“Some of the employees said . . . he did not pressure the women to submit to his advances for the sake of their careers, and he seemed to feel that he was giving the women the space to refuse his advances.”

It would have required an Einsteinian amount of “space” to deflect not just the “boss,” but the CEO, Founder, and one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in history. One of the myriad reasons hostile-environment harassment is so fraught is that an actionable claim may turn on something as remote and unpredictable as whether there is any “chemistry” between the parties, not to mention whether the chemistry lasts.

One feels some sympathy for Bill—he could hardly have frequented singles bars to meet eligible women. And yet, for every Bill-and-Melinda “meet cute” that worked out comfortably, one struggles to imagine the number of women who, if nothing else, spent many nights worrying about the potential consequences of such a deflection, even when none ensued—a proportion that may hereafter be known as “the Gates Ratio.”

Ann Althouse said...

Paul writes:

Boy, where to begin?

In the late '80s to the early '90s, when it seems like "sexual harassment attention peak 1.0" happened in American corporate culture, I was at Apple Computer headquarters in Cupertino, CA. A friend of mine was an executive assistant to one of the middle-tier executives, and she would recount to me some of the stories her boss told her about, yes, the challenge of having any kind of personal life when you were spending 10-and-more hours per day at work. The only available dating pool consisted of your colleagues—and, too often, only those below you in the hierarchy. I didn't think much of this particular gentleman personally, but this story actually made me sympathize with him.

In the meantime, another friend was the personal assistant to a manager much lower in the hierarchy—in fact, the manager of my department. She was a single mother, and I'd take her to lunch from time to time because the restaurants around Apple Computer were and are, as you might expect, not inexpensive. Eventually, my immediate supervisor went through a round of some suddenly mandatory training on sexual harassment and began questioning whether he should be wearing shorts to work (cue "men in shorts" tag!) and the like. Somehow, he apparently got wind of the fact that I was occasionally going to lunch with this assistant, called her into his office, and asked her point blank if I was harassing her. Of course, she told me about her "are you fucking kidding me!?" reaction later, which I appreciated both for the fact that it might itself be interpreted as harassing, and for its straightforward defense of my character.

To bring this all home, this was the late '90s or the beginning of the 21st century, and it felt hellish at the time. I literally cannot even begin to imagine how men and women in high-stakes careers today navigate the rocky shoals of dating, courting, marrying, family, etc. It literally feels to me like that would be a decision that would be mutually exclusive: I can either have this career or I can have this family. And if you base the family on sharing a career, God help you when the parameters of your career change, and call into question your identity in your family.


But I must focus on: "began questioning whether he should be wearing shorts to work"

Did this guy think shorts made him especially sexy?! LOL