Melinda Ann Gates is one of America’s most well-known philanthropists, as well as a former employee of Microsoft Corp., the $570 billion software giant founded by her husband Bill Gates, the richest man in the world.
Melinda, who has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Economics from Duke University and an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, joined Microsoft straight out of college to work on the development of the company’s multimedia products. Her last title at the tech pioneer was General Manager of Information Products, which she left in 1996 to focus on her philanthropic work and her family.
Melinda co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, now the largest transparently operated foundation in the world, with the goal of improving equity in the United States and abroad. As the co-chair of the organization, Melinda is responsible for shaping and approving the foundation’s strategies, reviewing results and setting the overall direction of the organization. Over the past fifteen years, she has increasingly focused on gender equality and empowering women and girls as a path to meaningful change. In 2012, Melinda led the London Summit on Family Planning and pledged $560 million to deliver contraceptives to an additional 120 million women in developing countries by 2020.
“We seek to unlock the possibility inside every individual,” write the Gates. “From the education of students in Chicago, to the heath of a young mother in Nigeria, we are catalysts of human promise everywhere.” The foundation focuses on the areas of greatest need and describes itself as a results-focused organization. It employs 1,453 people and has an endowment size of $40.3 billion, including annual installments pledged by Warren Buffett of over $1 billion each. The Gates Foundation reports over $41.3 billion in total grant payments since inception through the end of 2016, supporting grantees in all 50 states and working in over 100 countries around the world.
Melinda and her husband have earned countless awards and honors for their philanthropic efforts. In December 2005, Melinda and Bill were named by Time as Persons of the Year alongside Bono. Last year, the Gates were honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their philanthropic efforts by former President Barack Obama.
According to leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, both Melinda and her husband were being considering as vice presidential picks.