“All women, everywhere, have the same hopes: we want to be self-sufficient and create better lives for ourselves and our loved ones.” ~ Melinda Gates
In May 2016, Melinda Gates announced her latest pledge to the No Ceilings Project, a partnership with the Clinton Foundation at Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen. She pledged to contribute $80 million to collecting data on women in developing countries over the next three years, a project that will to aid efforts to achieve gender equality. The project will analyze and visualize 20 years worth of data, from over 190 countries to inform the public of the gaps and gains in women’s global development.
“Our humanity is the one thing that we all have in common.” ~ Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates, born Melinda Ann French, was born in Dallas, Texas in 1964. She holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics and an MBA, both from Duke University. Her illustrious career began at Microsoft when she joined the multimedia products team in 1987, with whom she developed offerings such as Publisher, Microsoft Bob, Encarta, and Expedia. She eventually grew to become the General Manager of Information Products. Melinda’s time at Microsoft was defined by both career and personal success as it was at the Fortune 100 Company where she met her husband Bill Gates, its co-founder. Bill and Melinda married in 1994 and had three children together, Jennifer, Phoebe and Rory.
Although Melinda eventually left Microsoft in 1996 to focus on raising her children, Melinda’s business education and dedication led her to take on positions as a member of Duke University’s board of trustees, the board of directors of the Washington Post company and the board of Drugstore.com. Her most important feat however was the founding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, the largest, and most financially transparent private foundation in the world. It is operated and controlled by its three trustees: Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet. As of December 2014, it had a recorded endowment of 44.3 billion dollars.
The foundation’s original goal was to place computers and Microsoft products in libraries all over the United States. However, Melinda has since expanded the philanthropic mission of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to include visions of worldwide improvements in education, poverty and healthcare. In 2003, after Buffet’s groundbreaking donation of 30 billion dollars, Melinda took on the challenge of restructuring the foundation into three branches: worldwide health, global development, and U.S. community and education.
“When you invest in women, you invest in the people who invest in everybody else.” ~ Melinda Gates
While the foundation as a whole pays special attention to global health initiatives such as developing preventative strategies, vaccines and treatments for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, including controlling insects that transmit diseases, Melinda has personally focused her time and efforts to issues that specifically effect women and girls. In 2012, she led the London Summit on Family Planning, allocating $560 million from the foundation with the aim of delivering contraceptives to 120 million women in developing countries by 2020. She launched storytelling platform Better by Half, on which she shares stories about people and organizations working to empower women and girls. She believes that if women are given the tools for success the world is “not just better by half, it is twice as good.”
Melinda Gates is my hero and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to turn a focus on her humanity during “International Women’s Month” – She is truly a remarkable woman, and global generosity will never go unnoticed.
Written by: Emily Sheiner
About GC4W: The Global Connections for Women Foundation is not-for-profit charity organization that believes in women and girls — and their rights to create new opportunities for themselves and their communities.