Gates Foundation commits $2.1B to advance gender equality and ‘deliver real change’

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday that it was committing $2.1 billion toward advancing global gender equality over the next five years, marking one of the largest single donations in the Seattle-based organization’s more than 20 years.

The pledge was made as part of the Generation Equality Forum convened by UN Women, taking place in Paris this week.

According to a news release, the goal is to advance women’s economic empowerment ($650 million over five years); strengthen women and girls’ health and family planning ($1.4 billion over five years); and accelerate women’s leadership ($100 million over five years). All of those efforts have long been championed by Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda French Gates.

“The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow. Now is the chance to reignite a movement and deliver real change,” French Gates said in a statement. “The beauty of our fight for gender equality is that every human being will gain from it. We must seize this moment to build a better, more equal future.”

We have a window of opportunity to make real progress toward gender equality. I'm proud to say the @gatesfoundation is committing $2.1 billion to help deliver change. Let's seize this moment to build a better, more equal future.

— Melinda French Gates (@melindagates) June 30, 2021


Foundation CEO Mark Suzman told The Wall Street Journal that while French Gates is the “primary face and voice” of the foundation’s gender-equality work, “Bill is very deeply engaged as well” and that both approved the new spending.

“We simply cannot meet so many of our other goals, from poverty reduction to financial inclusion to agricultural development to maternal child health, without taking a much more explicit focus on gender,” Suzman told the Journal.

“Prioritizing gender equality is not only the right thing to do, it is essential to fighting poverty and preventable disease,” Bill Gates said in a statement Wednesday.

The equity commitment comes in the wake of the Gateses’ divorce announcement in May and questions surrounding the future leadership of the Gates Foundation. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett announced last week that he was resigning as a trustee and questions have been swirling about the the foundation, which has an endowment worth nearly $50 billion and has issued close to $55 billion in grants since launching in 2000.

Suzman said in an email to employees after Buffett’s announcement that the departure does raise questions about the foundation’s governance.

“As I have mentioned previously, I have been actively discussing with him, Bill, and Melinda approaches to strengthen our governance to provide long-term stability and sustainability for the foundation’s governance and decision-making in light of the recent announcement of Bill and Melinda’s divorce. I plan to share additional information in July,” Suzman said.

Among other causes, including polio eradication, the Gates Foundation previously committed $1.75 billion in response to the coronavirus pandemic, to accelerate development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

Philanthropy Bill and melinda gates foundation Equity Gender equality