ON AUGUST 2, after 27 years of marriage, the divorce of “power couple” Bill Gates, 65, co-founder of Microsoft, and 56-year-old Melinda French Gates became final. With a fortune that includes a $166 million real estate portfolio, a $130 million art collection, and a combined net worth of over $130 billion, it’s doubtful the former couple and their three children, Jennifer, Rory, and Phoebe, will be struggling financially. However, the dissolution of any once-cherished union always comes at an incalculable emotional cost.
As one of the richest women in the world and “the most powerful woman in philanthropy,” Melinda will focus much of her energy on Pivotal Ventures: A Melinda French Gates Company. From the beginning, she entered her unique realm well-prepared. Valedictorian of her high school class at the Ursuline Academy in Dallas, Melinda earned a double bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics from Duke University, and a master’s degree from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business—all in just five years. Now, she continues as co-Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—the world’s largest private charitable foundation, established in 2000, with assets estimated at $51 billion—she will work with her ex-husband to administer the foundation’s global good works. Not the least of which is the $1.75 billion their Foundation has committed to COVID-19 responses worldwide
Pivotal Ventures, which Melinda created in 2015 as a separate, independent organization, will continue to receive much of Melinda’s attention. The Foundation’s goal is “to accelerate equality, empowerment, and opportunity for women and girls around the world” by supporting family planning programs, fair pay for women, gender equality in the workplace, establishing women’s empowerment collectives and self-help groups, offering financial services to women, and encouraging women’s leadership in politics, sports, and other career paths.” Recently, through Pivotal Ventures, Melinda quietly donated $8 billion in grants with “no strings attached” to more than 286 women-led, non-profit organizations. In her 2019 book, The Moment of Lift, she urged solidarity among women: “When we come together, we rise. And in the world, we’re building together, everyone rises.” She also has founded Evoke (www.evoke.org), an online forum devoted to “a community of optimists hosted by Melinda French Gates,” to “start conversations, amplify new voices, and forge stronger bonds between change-makers.”
The great American poet, Maya Angelou, wrote, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a b*tch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” Seems that’s precisely what Melinda Gates is helping women do.