Closing The Gap

Melinda Gates commits $1 billion to expand 'women's power and influence' in the US

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As one of the most powerful women in the world, Melinda Gates has been vocal about her desire to increase the amount of opportunities and access afforded to other women.

On Wednesday, the philanthropist and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that she will be committing $1 billion over the next 10 years "to expanding women's power and influence in the United States."

"I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives," Gates writes in an op-ed for Time. "I believe that women's potential is worth investing in — and the people and organizations working to improve women's lives are, too."

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Gates pointed out that right now, women make up 51% of the population in the U.S., yet they hold just 24% of seats in Congress.

"In 2018," she writes, "there were more men named James running Fortune 500 companies than there were women." This year, the number of women running Fortune 500 companies increased to a record high of 33. Though this is a considerable boost from past years, it still means women hold just 6.6% of Fortune 500 CEO seats, with women of color holding up even fewer. 

"It's frustrating — even heartbreaking — to confront evidence of the many ways our country continues to hold women back," writes Gates, whose recently-released book, "The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World," explores ways in which we can uplift women in order to address the inequalities they face at work and at home

Gates emphasized that through her company, Pivotal Ventures, she will put resources behind companies and organizations that are "taking innovative and diverse approaches to expanding women's power and influence." She writes that her funds will focus on three key priorities, including tearing down the barriers women face advancing professionally, fast-tracking women into industries and professional sectors where they are typically outnumbered, and "mobilizing shareholders, consumers, and employees to amplify external pressure on companies and organizations in need of reform."

Gates' $1 billion commitment to advancing women in the U.S. comes just one year after she announced a $170 million commitment to helping women increase their economic power. "Simply put when money flows into the hands of women who have the authority to use it, everything changes," she wrote in an op-ed for Quartz last year.

Though $1 billion is a significant commitment, Gates writes that she recognizes her financial contribution is "only a small fraction of what's necessary." She hopes her efforts to improve gender equality will inspire more people to step up and join the cause as well.

"Equality can't wait," she writes, "and no one in a position to act should either."

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