Bill and Melinda Gates on the Pandemic's Lasting Impacts

Melinda Gates shares her views on the post-pandemic world and how American society will fundamentally change as a result of the virus.

Air Date: June 23, 2020

Moderator: Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Bill Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic has already fundamentally shifted how we function as a society. While we won't know for some time the lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic, we can start to see how the world is changing — for worse and for better.

Bill and Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation have seen these changes happen in real-time while working through their foundation for pandemic relief. They are optimistic that, in the post-pandemic world, the current global response will yield long-term solutions to some of the gaps that it has exposed.

The Race and Gender Gap in America Needs to Be Addressed

Melinda Gates explained that one of the major gaps requiring immediate addressing is the gender and racial inequities that exist.

“In terms of gender, we know that women do two-and-a-half times more work at home than men do,” she said. “And that's the unpaid labor of caring for the kids, making the lunch, making sure they're online learning right now.”

“It is way past time that the U.S. has a paid family medical leave policy,” Gates added. “We're the only industrialized nation that doesn't. And if we want to put people back to work safely and keep their families safe from getting sick, we need to have paid family medical leave.”

Thankfully, she noted, Congress has started to address that with stimulus bills. However, we need a more long-term solution.

Online Learning Is the Future of Education Solutions, Even Post-Pandemic

Before the pandemic, online learning was not on the radar for schools across the country. Now, however, we’re beginning to see the possibilities of transitioning education to a permanent digital space in the post-pandemic world.

“Not only has COVID exposed the gaps in the system, but it's also shown us opportunities, like the fact that kids could jump online and start learning,” Gates said.

“Now, unfortunately, it's not all kids because many kids didn't have access to a computer or good digital literacy online or teachers who knew how to teach online,” she added. “But we know now it's possible … Now, we will make sure that technology gets spread equitably.”

People Can Now Handle Their Finances on Mobile Devices

Gates noted that many people handle their finances through digital banking on their phones, which is a convenient and safe option — especially during the pandemic.

“They have access to money on their phone … and that was at scale in a number of countries,” she said. Now, however, more people are realizing the benefits of digital banking, like avoiding lines at the bank and not putting yourself at risk to catch COVID or other illnesses.

“That is an opportunity we can use and particularly use to reach low-income families and women … with all kinds of things like cash transfers,” Gates added. “Some of those digital opportunities are really hitting in ways we didn't expect as quickly as we thought they would.”