The Gates Foundation is committed to donating $ 2.1 billion to support women’s economic and health issues in its first major initiative since the world’s largest philanthropic group was shaken by the announcement last month. last year their co-chairs, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, had ended their marriage.
The issue of gender equality is dear to French Gates, a former Microsoft executive, who, in recent years, has embraced it as his primary mission. In addition to the Gates Foundation, she also manages a $ 5 billion investment fund, Pivotal Ventures, dedicated to women’s causes.
But the Gates Foundation’s support for women’s issues has become uncomfortable following the publication of reports on Bill Gates ’relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who died in his prison cell in 2019 while he was away. pending trial for the accusation that he had trafficked minor children.
A spokesman said Gates regretted having met Epstein, and that he had done so only to discuss philanthropic projects.
The last money spent will be donated over five years, and divided into three broad categories: $ 650 million for economic empowerment, in part supporting family care and other unpaid tasks that fall heavily on women; $ 1.4 billion for family planning and contraception; and $ 100m to help women enrich leadership roles in business, politics and other arenas.
The donation coincides with the General Forum on Equality, a UN-sponsored event that will bring together governments and non-profit groups for three days in Paris to advance the cause of gender equality.
This mission, supporters say, has been given a new impetus by the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a disproportionate economic burden on women, pushing them out of the workforce and forcing them to shoulder a greater burden of family care. .
In a statement, French Gates said: “The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow. Now is the time to restart a movement and provide real change. ”
The announcement comes at a tumultuous time for the $ 50 billion Gates Foundation, which is funded by Gates ’fortune accumulated as a co-founder of Microsoft.
When them announces her marital score, Gates and French Gates insist that they remain committed to their mission and will continue to work together.
But some former leaders have questioned whether the philanthropic juggernaut can continue to operate as it is currently constituted. Those concerns deepened after Warren Buffett, the Berkshire Hathaway chair who spent most of his fortune on the foundation, announced last week that he was resignation from trustees.
Mark Suzman, the foundation’s executive director, told staff he will reveal more. changes in their governance next month.
In a statement announcing the $ 2.1 billion pledge, Gates said: “Gender equality priority is not only the right thing to do, it is essential to fight poverty and preventable diseases. “.
Meanwhile, the foundation also presented fresh economic data illustrating how the pandemic has exacerbated gender inequality by pushing women out of the workforce in disproportionate numbers.
According to International Labor Organization data, unemployment among women is set to rise by 13m between 2019 and 2020 – and is projected to increase by 2m this year – while men have largely recovered jobs lost during the pandemic.
“Gender equality is an economic necessity,” French Gates wrote in a separate letter. “One of the main reasons that the economies were so fragile in the first place was that women were marginalized. And these economies will never recover if their leaders continue to marginalize women.”