True generosity goes beyond the giving of things or funds. True generosity comes from the heart; it is the giving of the self. That is the trait we see embodied by Melinda Gates. For someone who could so easily write and check and move on, she leans into the causes she believes in, lending her voice, her time, her platform, her energy and so much more to end global poverty, work towards gender equality, and spread access to education for everyone around the world.
When Melinda co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation alongside her husband in 1999, the original objective was to get computers into public libraries, so that access to this powerful technology and the knowledge it could put at people’s fingertips, would not be restricted only to those with deep enough pockets. Today, access to the internet is considered by many to be a basic right. The Gates name is almost synonymous with computers and technological advancements. Clearly, Melinda Gates, a big believer in the power of education, saw the future of computer technology and connectivity, and knew that this needed to be accessible to all. As she once shared via Facebook, she and her husband “believe that education is the great equalizer.”
As the internet opens us all up to stories and struggles around the world, it’s no surprise that someone who values access to education so strongly, while being so immersed in the tech community, would look out at the world and see not only the blatant inequality, but also the opportunities for technology and education to bridge gaps and lift up communities around the world.
As the Gates Foundation evolved, Melinda expanded its focus to global education, health and poverty. When a massive donation of $30 billion came from the Gates’ friend, Warren Buffet, Melinda took action, dividing the foundation into three departments - global health, global development and US community and education - in order to make optimal use of the inflow and have the greatest possible impact. Through the organization, she began working tirelessly on vaccination programs and the prevention and treatment of disease outbreaks that too often cripple developing countries. She worked to bring education to under-served communities and modernize technology the world over.
Continuing to grow and evolve, the foundation now has four distinct areas of focus: “global health, education, access to digital information via public libraries, and support for at-risk families in Washington State and Oregon."
As a strong woman herself, Melinda has focused much of her efforts of lifting up women around the world, and eradicating the barriers (often social barriers) that hold them back. This year, she launched her book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, and committed $1 billion to achieving gender equality, saying, “Equality can’t wait, and no one in a position to act should either.”
In 2015, she also founded her own investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures, which is dedicated to social progress for women and families in the US by looking into areas where progress has stalled or is lagging behind, and finding opportunities where investment can help jumpstart progress and get things moving in the right direction. Although the focus is on women and families, the ultimate objective is a stronger society for all through advancing equality.
Melinda has been recognized with several awards and accolades for her philanthropic work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. However, her greatest achievement is certainly her impact on the world, and the impact her work continues to have on improving the lives and opportunities of people and communities around the world, working to create a stronger global community for all.
We are in awe of Melinda Gates for her generosity of self, funds, time, voice, energy and spirit. It is strong women like Melinda who refuse to turn away from pain, instead leaning into the struggle, using their powerful brains to see how they can help, and working tirelessly for a better world.
Do you know a generous woman in your life? Why not recognize her deep strength of spirit with a generosity challenge?