Editor’s Note: With the sad news of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce, we’re looking again at a story we published about two of the world’s most generous female philanthropists. Melinda Gates’ influence will surely grow as she makes more of her own decisions on giving. We’re staying tuned.
At a time when we hear a lot about greed (corporate and otherwise) in the news and a call for increased taxes for the very rich, here’s reason to unclench your jaw if only for a moment. Take a look at the uplifting example set by two incredible female philanthropists.
With her soon-to-be ex-husband Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, former general manager of Microsoft, is co-founder of the world’s largest private charitable organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It supports global health, education, and the fight against poverty.
MacKenzie Bezos has pledged to give half of her $35 billion in assets to charity over her lifetime or in her will.
The couple has given away more than $45 billion through their foundation and other family foundations over the last 25 years. Recently, Melinda published the best-selling book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, which is an urgent call about how we must protect and elevate women in the workplace and the world.
In an interview with the New York Times, she spoke about why she shared stories about everything from genital mutilation to the loss of a child in her book: “We don’t have to live everyone’s experience. We just have to have enough empathy to understand how heartbreaking that would be and to say, ‘Let’s change this.’ So I want people to be able to empathize with whichever stories reach them, then turn it back and say, ‘O.K., what can I do?’”
Female Philanthropists: Another Example of Giving Big
Now, MacKenzie Bezos—whose divorce from Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame was finalized in 2019—has just signed what’s called the Giving Pledge, a promise to give half of her $35 billion in assets to charity over her lifetime or in her will. (Her ex has not signed this pledge, which has raised eyebrows, though he did promise two billion dollars to early education and anti-homelessness programs.)
Since her divorce, Ms. Scott has given away more than $4 billion of her fortune, according to a post she wrote on Medium in December. She said in a statement, “I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”
Here’s hoping they inspire many people—female and male—to give in whatever way they can.
A version of this story was originally published in May 2019.