Melinda Gates has been named one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes multiple times, largely due to her philanthropy with an increasing focus on women’s issues for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The organization is the world’s largest private charitable foundation, with a $40 billion trust endowment, Forbes reported. Bill and Melinda Gates announced the end of their marriage in a tweet Monday, May 3, 2021, but said they would continue on with their shared goals.
Gates incorporates some of her own goals into the organization’s mission. She is an advocate for women in technology, according to Money, and recently published her first book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.
She developed an interest in computer programming at a young age, and met Bill Gates shortly after she started her job with Microsoft, according to the Independent.
Melinda and Bill Gates were married for 27 years. They have three children, Jennifer Katharine Gates, 25, Rory John Gates, 21, and Phoebe Adele Gates, 18.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Melinda Ann French Was Born in Dallas, Texas & Had an Early Interest in Computer Programming
Melinda Gates, born Melinda Ann French, was born in Dallas, Texas August 15, 1964 to Ray French and Elaine French. She had one older sister and two younger brothers. Her father was an aerospace engineer, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Her mom wished she’d gone to college, and encouraged her children to pursue higher education, according to Biography. The family owned rental properties, which they would maintain on weekends to pay for their children’s tuition.
She attended an all-girls Catholic School, Ursuline Academy. It was there that her interest in computer programming was piqued, during an advanced math class, Biography reported. Her father also played a role in kindling her interest in technology when he brought home an Apple II when she was 14. The Apple II was one of the first consumer computers to be sold. She learned basic programming languages and played computer games, according to Independent.
She went on to pursue a major in computer science, earning her bachelor’s degree from Duke University in 1986. She then obtained a master’s degree in business administration, with a focus in economics, from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, according to Biography.
She spoke with Money in 2018 about the need for more women in technology.
“Every company needs technology, and yet we’re graduating fewer women technologists. That is not good for society. We have to change it,” she told the publication.
Melinda Gates often shares photos of her children on Instagram, including nostalgic moments of her young children and family photos. She shared a photo on Instagram for Thanksgiving of her three children when they were young, clustered around a pumpkin and smiling.
“I’m feeling thankful for these three and the silver lining of extra time with them this year. Wishing you and yours a hopeful and healthy holiday,” she wrote.
She also shared a family photo in 2019 on Thanksgiving.
“There’s so much to be grateful for this year, but these four will always be at the very top of my list,” she wrote. “From our family to yours—Happy Thanksgiving.”
She also shared a photo of the family of five in their younger years on Christmas 2019.
Christmas. It’s my absolute favorite time of year—it always has been. Over the years, Bill and I have tried to keep the traditions we grew up with alive for our own family, while starting a few of our own. One of them is something we call “closing the doors for Christmas.” As soon as the kids are all out of school for break, we pull back from our usual routines and spend that time with family instead. The older and busier our kids get, the more special that time becomes. I’m grateful that we can still allow ourselves to be present for the moments that matter—and give this time of year the space in our hearts that it deserves.
May your holidays be full of warmth, wonder, and time with those you love.
In February 2020, she shared a photo of three generations of women in her family in a post about equality.
“I love this photo of three generations of women in my family. It makes me think about how much the world has opened up for women just across my mother’s and my lifetimes, and why continuing to work toward a more equal future is so important to me,” she wrote.
2. Bill & Melinda Gates Met Through Microsoft & Have 3 Children
Bill and Melinda Gates met when she was four months into her job at Microsoft. They were seated next to each other at an Expo trade-fair dinner in New York.
“He was funnier than I expected him to be,” she told the Independent.
Several months later, he saw her in the car park and asked her to go out with him two weeks from then. She told him to ask her closer to the date.
They were married on New Years Day in 1994 in Hawaii.
Melinda Gates is a devout Catholic, the Independent reported. She and Bill have two daughters and a son: Jennifer Katharine Gates, who was born 1996, son Rory John Gates, who was born 1999 and Phoebe Adele Gates, who was born 2002. Read more about their children here.
A tweet signed by both Bill and Melinda Gates announced May 3, 2021 they decided to end their marriage after attempts to save their relationship. The tweet said:
After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage. Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives. We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.
3. Melinda Gates’ Book, ‘The Moment of Lift,’ Was Promoted by President Barack Obama in a Comedy Sketch
Melinda Gates published her first book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, in 2019. It became a New York Times bestseller.
“In her book, Melinda tells the stories of the inspiring people she’s met through her work all over the world, digs into the data, and powerfully illustrates issues that need our attention―from child marriage to gender inequity in the workplace,” President Barack Obama wrote in the book’s endorsements.
But that wasn’t all Obama had to say about Gates’ book. He participated in a comedy sketch to promote the book on the last day of her nine-day book tour. Bill Gates and Obama had a surprise planned for Melinda Gates, The Oprah Magazine reported.
Gates introduced his wife on the last night of the tour. Then, a video of Obama giving Gates suggestions for a gift during the introduction appeared on the screen.
“So you’re thinking of surprising Melinda on stage,” Obama said in the video, pretending he was speaking to Bill Gates on the phone. “Well, yeah, I did bring Michelle flowers. You could do the same thing, but I considered a lot of other options. For example, I thought about delivering her a pizza, bringing out a Mariachi band, I tried to make her an ice sculpture. I even thought about getting a dance crew. In the end, though, Bill, I just went with flowers. Now that was right for Michelle. You’ve got to do what’s right for Melinda.”
4. Melinda Gates Has Been Named One of the World’s Most Powerful Women for her Role in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Melinda Gates has been named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World multiple times by Forbes. In 2018, she ranked sixth. The organization is the largest foundation with a $40 billion trust endowment, Forbes reported.
“She’s increasingly visible in shaping foundation strategy, solving tough global challenges from education and poverty to contraception and sanitation,” Forbes reported. “As part of the foundation’s mission to help all people lead healthy, productive lives, she has devoted much of her work to women’s and girls’ rights. In her next chapter, Gates’ mission is to close the funding gap for female founders, through her investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures.”
The idea for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation started with a letter from Melinda’s mother, Mary French. It was given to her at their wedding shower, which reminded the couple that “to whom much is given, much is expected,” according to the Independent. At the time, the goal of the William H. Gates Foundation was to put laptops in every classroom. Bill and Melinda decided to broaden the goal and tackle education reform in the United States.
The organization now has five main goals, focused on health and disease in developing countries, delivering tools to improve health in those countries, economic growth, improving education in the United States, and promoting policies to advance their work, according to the foundation’s website.
While the organization’s focus has shifted and expanded over the years, the mission is simplified on its website: “All lives have equal value. We are impatient optimists working to reduce inequity.
5. Melinda Gates Called her Husband, Bill Gates, a ‘Multi-Processor’ on Documentary & Often Shared Sweet Memories With Her Husband on Social Media
“Bill is a multi-processor,” Melinda Gates said on the Netflix documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates. “He’ll be reading something else but processing then at the same time. It’s chaos!”
Melinda Gates was working at Microsoft when she met her future husband, Bill Gates, at a Microsoft press event in Manhattan in 1987. She was eventually promoted to become one of the executives in charge of interactive content. Bill and Melinda Gates were married in 1994 on New Year’s Day, according to BBC.
“He thrives on complexity. He makes a framework in his mind, and then he starts slotting in the information. If something doesn’t line up, he gets really frustrated. It’s scary,” she said on the documentary. “But when Bill stills himself, he can pull ideas together that other people can’t see.”
Melinda Gates shared a wedding photo and a tribute to her father in law, Bill Gates Sr., for his birthday in 2019.
“A very happy birthday to Bill Gates, Sr.—a wonderful father, grandfather, and one of the most generous people I know,” she wrote. “We love you!”
On New Years Day 2020, they celebrated 26 years of marriage. To mark the occasion, Melinda Gates shared a photo of herself with her husband, dancing and laughing together.
“New Year’s Day will always be extra special to me—marking both a fresh year and an opportunity to celebrate being married to @thisisbillgates,” she wrote. “Today makes 26, and I’m still marveling at just how full a heart can get. Happy anniversary to the man who keeps me dancing through life.”