Women Empowerment: Melinda Gates, The First Lady of Philanthropy
So, your husband is the richest man in the world, what do you do? Well if you are Melinda Gates you definitely don’t prance around shopping and eating bonbons! Known as philanthropy’s First Lady and for her adamant championing of women empowerment, as co-chair of the world’s largest private charitable foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates can and does use money and power to better the world!
Funding initiatives focused on improving global health, reducing poverty, and expanding educational opportunities and access to information technology, Melinda has established her power in philanthropy and global development with $4.2 billion in giving in 2015 and more than $36.7 billion in grant payments since founding the foundation with her husband in 2000.
“Our role is to take risks that, if they pay off, could give millions of people the chance to make the most of their lives,” she says of the foundation’s work.
Today much of Melinda’s attention is focused on supporting investments in women and girls around the world as she believes, and has seen the proof, that empowering women and girls can bring transformational improvements in the health and prosperity of families, communities and societies.
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Melinda obtained a B.A. in Computer Science and Economics from Duke University in 1986 followed by an M.B.A. from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business before joining Microsoft as a project manager. It probably goes without saying, but we will say it anyway, she met Bill Gates while working at Microsoft. The two were married in 1994 and shortly thereafter she left the company to focus on starting and raising their family (they have two daughters and a son), and bettering the world through her philanthropy!
Named #4 on Forbes Power Women list in 2016, Melinda’s work has inspired other big donors and influenced the way funders think about philanthropy, in particular through the highly targeted format of her campaigns in combination with data-driven monitoring and global collaboration.
During the first 15 years of its existence the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation focused much of its attention toward fighting polio, attacking malaria and educational issues. But in the last few years Melinda has taken her powerful position as a woman and put much of her and the foundation’s focus on empowering women and girls around the world.
In 2012, Melinda, who is well-known for her avoidance of the spotlight, took a very public and controversial stance for women around the globe when she stood up to the Catholic Church, the very church she pledges her faith to, in support of female contraception. While at a TED Talk Melinda announced the foundations stance by stating that she and her husband have sex without the intent to have children. Melinda backed up her bold statement by pledging to fund millions of doses of birth control for women while making it more readily available, providing sex education and research new methods of contraception.
“When you get women in roles of leadership, we make things happen,” Melinda told Forbes Carolina Howard. “It takes us using our voice, and it also takes us making investments, huge investments, in women and girls.”
With a multi-billion endowment at her fingertips, if anyone can make this happen it is most certainly Melinda Gates!
Melinda also discussed her public role in relationship to the foundation’s support of gender inequality issues with Carolina Howard for Forbes, telling her, “I kept looking for the advocate who would champion these issues. I knew it had to be a woman. We would talk inside the foundation, ‘Could we get this person or that person?’ I considered other women leaders. But I couldn’t find the one who embodied to me the voice of women around the world. And so I thought, ‘If I’m the one, then I just need to do it. I have to have courage and not worry.'”
Given Melinda and Bill’s great ties to technology and Melinda’s start in the industry, in the fall of 2016 she took on a personal endeavor addressing the lack of women in technology. Her announcement stated she would spend two years in “learning mode” and that then she would begin to tackle the problem. We look forward to seeing what she learns and how she executes!
Above all Melinda and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation strive to end poverty in the world and she believes that in order to do that women and girls must be put at the center of the cause and that through their empowerment the world will become a better place!
Words of Wisdom by Melinda Gate:
“Women speaking up for themselves and for those around them is the strongest force we have to change the world.”
“Make sure you continue to trust what you know now about yourself and stay true to what you believe in.”
“Take time to learn about the lives of women around the world-and try to play a small part in their fight to create the future they deserve.”
“It is important to remember that behind every data point is a daughter, a mother, a sister – a person with hopes and dreams.”
Thank you Melinda Gates for all that you do for women empowerment and to better our world!
With love, KOKET
For more inspiring women and their stories visit our Women Empowerment page!