Melinda Gates on Wednesday announced that she was committed $1 billion to promoting gender equality in the United States, saying it is “frustrating — even heartbreaking — to confront evidence of the many ways our country continues to hold women back.”
Gates, a philanthropist and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, penned an op-ed for Time magazine about the investment, which will span the next 10 years.
“$1 billion is a lot of money, but I also recognize that it’s only a small fraction of what’s necessary. That’s why I hope the financial commitment I’m making today is seen as both a vote of confidence in the experts and advocates who are already working on these issues — and an invitation for others to join the cause and make commitments of their own,” Gates wrote. “Equality can’t wait, and no one in a position to act should either.”
Gates noted how in 2018 there were more men named James running Fortune 500 companies than there were women altogether, and how only one CEO on that list is a woman of color.
“Then again, for most of our history, women’s absence from positions of power and influence wasn’t newsworthy; it was normal. The fact we’re now talking about these inequities is itself a sign of progress,” she wrote.
Gates said her company, Pivotal Ventures, will put resources behind through three priorities, the first of which being removing barriers to women’s professional advancement.
“Even though most women now work full-time (or more), we still shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities; we face pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination; we are surrounded by biased and stereotypical representations that perpetuate harmful gender norms,” the philanthropist wrote.
The second goal would be fast-tracking women in certain industries — technology, media and public office — where men traditional make up the majority of the workforce.
Gates’s third goal is “mobilizing shareholders, consumers, and employees to amplify external pressure on companies and organizations in need of reform.”
Her new billion dollar initiatives comes after a report from the foundation she leads with her husband, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, determined that gender inequality affects women and girls in every nation but particularly poorer ones.
The analysis, released last month, found that inequality begins to take shape around adolescence, when, across the board, boys tend to rely less on their parents and make connections with society at large through high school, college or employment.
“At the same time, girls’ worlds contract. They transition, sometimes at a very young age, from being subservient to their parents to being subservient to their husbands,” the report states. “Although they enjoyed some measure of freedom while attending primary school, they are expected to return to the confines of the home, to devote themselves to cooking, cleaning, and raising children.”
The ratio of girls doing domestic work for no pay for at least two hours a day nearly doubles after the age of 15, with the average woman spending more than four hours a day on unpaid work by adulthood compared to just over an hour for men, according to the report.