Melinda French Gates Shifts Focus: Why She Resigned from the Gates Foundation and Her Bold New Plans

melinda french gates

melinda french gates

Melinda French Gates recently described her decision to resign from the Gates Foundation and delineated her long term goals. This came in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision, which allowed individual states to abortion legality. The decision compelled French Gates to divert her focus towards supporting reproductive rights within the United States, a cause she previously supported primarily overseas.

In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Melinda French Gates stated that “While I have long focused on improving contraceptive access overseas, in the post- Dobbs era, I now feel compelled to support reproductive rights here at home.” She underscored the need to provide financial backing to organizations fighting or defending for women’s rights in the US, who often face funding challenges against the well financed opposition.

The renowned philanthropist Melinda French Gates announced earlier that June 7 would be her last day at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the organization French founded almost two decades ago. She received $12.5 billion from the foundation, as a part of her divorce settlement, which she now plans to use to focus on girls and women through her humanitarian efforts. Although initially she did not provide specifics, she recently shared details of her new initiatives.

Gates will donate $1 billion through 2026 via her organization, Pivotal Ventures, to promote women’s rights on global bases. This initiative includes $200 million in grants for organizations fighting for women’s reproductive rights. The 19th, a nonprofit news organization that covers gender policy, is one of their beneficiaries. Co-founder and CEO of The 19th, Emily Ramshaw expressed her gratitude, noting that the support would refine their political and policy coverage during a critical election year and secure the organization’s enduring viability. 

Another Beneficiary, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), will utilize its grant to advance women’s health and address the gender pay gap. IWPR President and CEO, Dr. Jamila Taylor acknowledged French Gates’s support as a significant boost for their mission to empower women.

Melinda French Gates will also allocate $250 million to the organizations working to improve women’s physical and mental health. Pioneering a new approach, she will grant $240 million to 12 advocates and influential leaders around the globe, providing each with $20 million to distribute to groups they believe are doing essential work in women’s health. They adopted a strategy akin to MacKenzie Scott, who revolutionized philanthropy by rapidly giving large amounts to favored organizations without qualifications.

Melinda French Gates wrote in her op-ed, “I’m also experimenting with novel tactics to bring a wider range of perspectives into philanthropy”. She wishes to gain insights from these leaders, which include former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, maternal health advocate Allyson Felix and Afghan women’s education activist Shabana Basij-Rasikh.

Gates shared that she was once advised to set her own agenda before someone else sets it for her, which influenced her decision to leave the Gates Foundation. She expressed disappointment with those who doubt the effect and impact of charitable efforts aimed at empowering women, prioritizing the high maternal mortality rate in the US and the lack of national paid family leave as significant issues.

Melinda  noted that only 2% of donations in the United States go to organizations focused on girls and women. However, she believes that investing in women’s health will appreciably benefit the global economy. “Because I have been given this extraordinary opportunity, I am determined to do everything I can to seize it and to set an agenda that helps other women and girls set theirs, too,” French concluded in her op-ed.

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