Power Players

Bill Gates says people with high IQs should work for climate-friendly companies: 'Don't just do derivatives on Wall Street'

Bill Gates attends the 2022 Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on June 08, 2022, in New York City.
Taylor Hill | Wireimage | Getty Images

Calling all brainiacs: Bill Gates wants people with high IQs to work for climate-friendly businesses instead of flocking to Wall Street.

At a recent TechCrunch event, Gates spoke about how his climate-focused fund, Breakthrough Energy, has attempted to lure the types of high-IQ employees who'd otherwise be seeking lucrative gigs in fields like investment banking. Breakthrough Energy has multiple billionaire investors – including Gates, Jeff Bezos, Ray Dalio and Michael Bloomberg – but Gates said the fund's success largely depends on young people who have strong ideas, high IQs and "want to work on something that's not just maximizing their income."

"Part of Breakthrough Energy [has been] taking the IQ – the best IQ in the world – and saying, 'Hey, don't just do derivatives on Wall Street,'" Gates said. "[It will] send a signal to people early in their hard science, engineering careers that these are climate-related problems, we need you to get involved."

Gates noted that the high salaries on Wall Street are a clear draw for many young prospective employees. But, he said, those jobs "are a little less honorable than they used to be" – which gives environmentally conscious workplaces a potential selling point for attracting top talent.

It might be a compelling argument. In April, Matthew Killingsworth, a senior psychology fellow at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, told CNBC Make It that a correlation does exist between high salaries and feelings of personal fulfillment – but only for people who prioritized money above other life goals. And in May, a global Deloitte survey found that 26% of millennials chose to work for their current companies so they could derive a sense of meaning from their work.

Nearly a quarter of Gen Z respondents agreed, potentially representing a growing shift in societal attitudes.

As for Gates, his focus on IQ is notable, given that he's previously spoken about lessening his reliance on book smarts to judge employees. During a 2018 panel discussion at Hunter College, he said the one thing he wishes he knew when he was younger was how beneficial different skillsets – from emotional intelligence to relational intelligence – can be.

"I thought if somebody had a high IQ, they could be good at everything," Gates said. "And the idea that you needed to blend these different types of skills together, that always continued to surprise me."

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