The world knows about Bill Gates- the multi-billionaire founder of Microsoft, and one who has topped the list of the wealthiest people innumerable times. But if anyone would think that the partner of such rich and powerful man would choose to live under the shadow of his man, wrong it would be. The life story of Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates, is such that it holds lessons for women that may have been married to a well-to-do man; however, they build a universe of their own with their sweat and blood. This other ‘Gates,’ Melinda has made it several times to the Forbes most powerful women list and has gone past the shadow of her man to create a niche of her own.
Melinda was born in a middle-class family, and her mother was a non-working woman. Her father was an engineer, and her first encounter with tech is said to have occurred when she saw a machine that was introduced by another tech enthusiast, Steve Jobs. Yes, the Apple II computer, one of the earliest microcomputers that was mass-produced, motivated Melinda to pursue programming. And if anyone thought that she was nothing before her marriage to Bill Gates, know this.
Melinda was a school topper and graduated in computer science and economics. She also earned her master’s in business administration later. Melinda joined Microsoft as an employee in the marketing department when the company was still in its infancy. She led the development of many of the company’s products and rose through the ranks to become the General Manager. Expedia, a well-known online travel agency, had many inputs from Melinda Gates. Although Microsoft sold Expedia later, it today ranks as the highest-earning travel company. It is said that she met her future husband over a work dinner.
The Ultimate Success
All the degrees and success in professional life while working with Microsoft are only a small part of the accomplishments. The real victory for Melinda came in the form of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that was founded by the husband-wife duo in 2000. One of the trustees in the foundation is Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. The foundation holds close to USD 50 billion in assets and is the largest private foundation globally. It aims at reducing poverty and helping provide healthcare and other critical support. The contribution from Bill and Melinda Gates to the foundation is estimated to be USD 36 billion.
The foundation has donated millions for the establishment of libraries and other education facilities. It also gives away the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship that financially supports bright students from all over the world to earn admission into Cambridge University. The famed WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) initiative was nothing but a brainchild of Melinda Gates. In the same light, it was the foundation’s ‘reinvent the toilet challenge’ that encouraged innovators from the US, India, China, and other countries to come up with new research that could better waste treatment for the urban poor.
The foundation has also contributed during calamities that include the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Recently, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged USD 100 million for research on coronavirus vaccine and treatment. The foundation is also providing relief work in war-torn regions like Syria and Libya. Melinda is well-aware of how women’s participation can boost the global economy. In this light, she has authored a book that talks about the failure of society in recognizing and rewarding the unpaid work done by women. In the city of Chicago, Melinda has a vision to develop gender-inclusive tech hubs.
Philanthropy is more than committing money towards social causes, and Melinda’s works are all about this. From a technology enthusiast to being a working professional to being the driving force behind the world’s largest private foundation, Melinda delivered on virtually every count. And yes, she did not compromise her family and left the job at Microsoft when she was pregnant with her first child. With Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda has been working tirelessly to further various causes. She has recognized and is making the world aware of the potential of working women. Melinda has emphasized that the world cannot be a better place unless women occupy vital positions. A thinker and a doer, Melinda is an inspiration to many women who aspire to become professionally capable and, at the same time, work towards the betterment of society.