British women have the “strength” to wear trainers to work, Melinda Gates has said, as she admits to being jealous of them.
The computer science graduate-turned-philanthropist had been working with campaigners and journalists in London whilst promoting her bestselling book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, when said she realised she was one of the only people wearing heels.
During an interview for ITV News, Gates was wearing high heels, whilst journalist Julie Etchingham sported a pair of white trainers.
“I had several meetings today where the women came in trainers and I was like ‘why am I not strong enough to do that? I should do that more,” she told an audience at the Emmanuel Centre in London on Wednesday.
The 54-year-old co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a fervent champion for women at home and in the workplace and has spoken extensively about the importance of rejecting perfection.
“I grew up thinking I had to be perfect and achieve certain goals, and I think that we all have to be able to say it’s okay not to be perfect.
“We have to change the workforce and the culture because the workforce is saying to women all the time ‘you’re not going to get there unless you are perfect, unless you act a certain way’.
“You’re expected to look good, be able to present and not look too bossy,” she said.
It follows debates over “sexist” company policies that require women to wear heels in the office and amid relaxing workplace dress codes that sees more and more women pairing trainers with dresses.
Highlighting that responsibilities such as housework and childcare are typically left for females in heteronormative families, Gates, added that most women are working a “second shift” at home after work.
She told the audience that women should be recognised for the “unpaid” work they do in their homes.
Among other chores, a daily combination of cooking, clearing up and driving children around equates to women doing 100 more hours of unpaid work than men in the UK, she said.
Around the world, the average woman works around the home for seven more years of her life than a man in total.
“There are some things at home that we want to do like reading to our kids at night when they are little. But sometimes they are just chores so we have to look at that and decide who is really going to do what.
“I don’t know about you but I could do a lot of things with seven more years of my life. I could get a couple of PhDs.”