Melinda Gates at the World Economic Forum in 2011
Melinda Ann French
August 15, 1964
|Residence||Medina, Washington, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Duke University (BA), (MBA)|
|Occupation||Co-Chair and Founder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation|
Bill Gates (m. 1994)
Melinda Ann Gates DBE (born August 15, 1964) is an American philanthropist and a former general manager at Microsoft. In 2000, she co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband Bill Gates, the world's largest private charitable organization. Gates has consistently been ranked as one of the world's most powerful women by Forbes.
Melinda Ann French was born on August 15, 1964 in Dallas, Texas. She is the second of four children to Raymond Joseph French Jr., an aerospace engineer, and Elaine Agnes Amerland, a homemaker. Melinda has an older sister and two younger brothers.
Melinda, a Catholic, attended St. Monica Catholic School, where she was the top student in her class year. At age 14, Melinda was introduced to the Apple II by her father, which later inspired her interest in computer games and the BASIC programming language.
Melinda graduated as valedictorian from Ursuline Academy of Dallas in 1982. She earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and economics from Duke University in 1986 and an MBA from Duke's Fuqua School of Business in 1987. At Duke, Melinda was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Beta Rho Chapter.
Gates' first job was tutoring math and computer programming to children. After graduation, Melinda joined Microsoft as a marketing manager, where she was responsible for leading the development of various multimedia products. These included Cinemania, Encarta, Publisher, Microsoft Bob, Money and Word. In addition, she worked on Expedia, which is now one of today's biggest travel booking websites. Despite the commercial failure of Microsoft Bob, Gates later recalled that a software demo was "one of the hardest things I've ever done". In the early 1990s, Gates was appointed as General Manager of Information Products, a position which she held until 1996. She left Microsoft to focus on starting and raising her family.
Gates served as a member of Duke University's Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2003. She attends the annual Bilderberg Group conference and has held a seat on the Board of Directors of The Washington Post company since 2004. She was also on the Board of Directors at Drugstore.com, but left in August 2006 to focus on philanthropy projects. Since 2000, Gates has been active in the public eye, stating "As I thought about strong women of history, I realized that they stepped out in some way". This has helped her work become recognized, while shaping and delivering goals of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As of 2014, Bill and Melinda have donated US$28 billion to the Foundation.
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World
In 2019 Melinda Gates debuted as an author with the book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. Former President Barack Obama starred in a comedy sketch in order to promote the book. The book highlights the failure to acknowledge women's unpaid work, drawing on feminist economist Marilyn Waring's book If Women Counted.
Melinda began dating CEO Bill Gates in 1987, after meeting him at a trade fair in New York. In 1994, she married Gates in a private ceremony held in Lanai, Hawaii. The couple have three children: daughters Jennifer Katharine Gates (born 1996) and Phoebe Adele Gates (born 2002), and son Rory John Gates (born 1999). The family resides in an estate on the shore of Lake Washington near Seattle.
Gates and her husband were suggested as possible vice-presidential picks in the 2016 United States presidential election, according to a reportedly hacked email published by WikiLeaks from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Awards and recognition
In December 2005, Melinda and Bill Gates were named by Time as Persons of the Year alongside Bono. Melinda and Bill Gates received the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation on May 4, 2006, in recognition of their world impact through charitable giving.
In November 2006, Melinda was awarded the Insignia of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, together with Bill, who was awarded the Placard of the same order, both for their philanthropic work around the world in the areas of health and education, particularly in Mexico, and specifically in the program "Un país de lectores".
In May 2006, in honor of her work to improve the lives of children locally and around the world, Seattle Children's Hospital dedicated the Melinda French Gates Ambulatory Care building at Seattle Children's (formerly Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center). She chaired a campaign for the hospital to fundraise $300 million to expand facilities, fund under-compensated and uncompensated care, and grow the hospital's research program to find cures and treatments.
In 2007, Gates received an honorary doctorate in medicine from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2009, she and her husband received honorary degrees from the University of Cambridge. Their benefaction of $210 million in 2000 set up the Gates Cambridge Trust, which funds postgraduate scholars from outside the UK to study at the University. Lastly, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Duke University in 2013 as a tribute for her philanthropic commitment.
Gates was appointed an honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2013 for services to philanthropy and international development. In recognition of the foundation's philanthropic activities in India, Bill and Melinda jointly received India's third-highest civilian honor, Padma Bhushan, in 2015. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Gates and her husband with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their philanthropic efforts.
In 2017, President François Hollande awarded Gates and her husband with France's highest national award, the Legion of Honour, in Paris for their charity efforts. That year, she was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal 2016 of the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN), Berlin-Brandenburg, "for outstanding services to peace and international understanding" in the historic Berlin Town Hall. That year, Gates was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 12 in the list of 200 Most Influential Philanthropists and Social Entrepreneurs Worldwide.
Women in technology
Gates' experience of a male-dominated workplace at Microsoft inspired her to encourage more women in the computing field. In September 2016, Gates announced her desire on increasing the diversity in the workplace, especially in the technology industry, stating:
Every company needs technology, and yet we’re graduating fewer women technologists. That is not good for society. We have to change it.
She explained that she would be in "learning mode" after which she would begin addressing the problem. She also spoke about this topic as one of the speakers at the Grace Hopper Celebration on October 4, 2017. In the 2016 annual letter from the Gates Foundation, Gates said women should "spend more time doing paid work, starting businesses, or otherwise contributing to the economic well-being of societies around the world. The fact that they can't, holds their families and communities back."
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