Women Leaders We Like: Melinda Gates

Bill_Melinda_GatesYou hear the name, and you think: Microsoft, and wife of the wealthiest man on earth.

But did you know Bill and Melinda Gates have given away more money than anyone in world history? Not only is the couple rich, they are generous. And much of their wealth goes to people living right here. Fortune, fame, and a successful career in the corporate world are not what make Melinda Gates one of the greatest female leaders in the world; her determination in giving out what she has to help those who are in need and help advancing equity in the world is what we always remember her of.

Melinda was having a successful career in Microsoft as a general manager in the Information Products department when she met her future husband Bill Gates. The two married after a few years dating and Melinda eventually left her job when she gave birth to their first children. Like many women, she made the decision because she felt fulfilling her responsibility as a loving mom was more important. Nevertheless, it did not mark the end of Melinda’s career. She has never thought of wasting her talents and skills, and more importantly, she is committed to positive social impact. She was aware that she could have done more and thanks to her experience in rearing a child, she was inspired to direct her energy toward the non-profit world and that she tried to incorporate the unique perspective as a women and a mother into her work. As Melinda describes, “”It’s a great segue into a different path [because] a lot of skills I learned at Microsoft are absolutely skills I rely on and use [in my humanitarian work]. So I made a conscious choice that when our daughter turned one, I would get back into those interests, those issues, and start learning them.” (Komo News)

Melinda kept the promise she made to herself and she co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband in 2000 with $106 million. She is actively involved in all stages of the decision-making process of the foundation, and she often meets with local, national and international grantees and partners for various projects that target to improve health condition worldwide, to eliminate poverty in some of the world’s poorest regions, to promote education, and to provide technology to libraries. All these are done due to Melinda’s one simple belief: one life on this planet is no more valuable than the next, and so equity is what she has been fighting for throughout these years.

This small thought has grown into a huge motivation to Melinda and it has made the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. In 2005, the couple (along with U2’s Bono) was chosen by Times Magazine as Person of the Year for the charitable work they have done. Lesson here? If you are determined to do something for the people you care and you have a heart to give back to the society, nothing can stop you. Melinda Gates, as a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and mother, is a good example showing how it’s all possible.

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