BY LAUREN PUCKETT-POP
A vocal critic of the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women and marginalized communities, philanthropist and businesswoman Melinda French Gates is making renewed efforts to combat global inequity—but, this time, with a new strategy: books.
In partnership with Flatiron Books, part of the larger Macmillan Publishers company, French Gates is launching Moment of Lift Books, an imprint dedicated exclusively to nonfiction about social issues faced by women and girls. The off-shoot, named after French Gates’s own bestseller, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, will launch with three titles, the first of which will arrive in 2023.
Moment of Lift titles will present gender inequity through a kaleidoscope of perspectives. To start, Jina Krause-Vilmar, president and CEO of the immigrant and refugee-focused nonprofit Upwardly Global, will explore the systems that lock refugee women into cycles of economic struggle. David Moinina Sengeh, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and the Chief Innovation Officer for the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation, will use his title, Radical Inclusion, to chronicle the struggle of pregnant girls attempting to attend school in his home country. Finally, Joanne N. Smith, founder, president and CEO of the Brooklyn-based nonprofit Girls for Gender Equity, will probe how (and why) American society continues to fail Black girls and gender-expansive youth.
French Gates first vocalized the idea of launching an imprint after Macmillan approached her about a follow-up to her bestseller. “She replied that she wanted to promote other voices, those of people working on behalf of women and girls around the world,” says Will Schwalbe, Executive Vice President of Editorial Development at Macmillan.
Through her work with the Bill Gates & Melinda Gates foundation and her own investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures, French Gates has long made the stories of women a priority, but this is her first foray into the larger business of buying and selling books. Anyone with half an economics minor can tell you the publishing industry is a very different beast from Microsoft’s world of tech, but it’s clear the Seattle-based philanthropist knows exactly what she’s getting into—and, more importantly, why.
“While we’ve made tremendous progress towards gender equality in recent decades, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately affect women’s lives and livelihoods,” French Gates says. “As the world works to advance an equitable recovery, Moment of Lift Books will publish visionaries who are helping ensure women’s voices and perspectives are not left behind. I hope their stories will inspire readers to join in the global fight for equality.”