Why Melinda Gates May Be One Of The World's Most Powerful Advocates For Women And Girls

George Zapo

Melinda Gates has become one of the most powerful individuals on earth whose primary focus is advocating for girls and women. The American businesswoman and philanthropist has a $41.3 billion endowment, and she can use it in just about any manner that she and her husband, Bill Gates, see fit. She intends to take full advantage of another philanthropic opportunity and challenge.

For the first decade and a half of its existence, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation positioned itself toward eradicating malaria and polio, as well as taking a hard look at global education issues. Now, Melinda Gates is focusing more attention on impoverished girls and women around the world.

This September, Melinda Gates and a group of prominent women world leaders met with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for a G7 conference. In attendance for the meeting with Melinda were Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Queen Rania of Jordan, former Prime Minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Soldberg, the CEO of General Motors General Motors, Mary Barra, and the Director of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan.

Forbes reports that after Chancellor Merkel had thanked her guests, she listened to reports on women's political participation, and economic and health empowerment, After the presentations, Merkel opened up the floor for further discussion. Melinda Gates spoke first, giving an exact, passionate four-minute address.

A brief excerpt of Melinda's speech included her view on girls and women in today's world.

"When you get women in roles of leadership, we make things happen. It takes us using our voice, and it also takes us making investments, huge investments, in women and girls."

To many people, 51-year-old Melinda Gates appears down-to-earth. She is one of the few public figures that does not travel with an entourage. For a few years now, Melinda Gates' name has been on the letterhead of the largest charitable foundation, along with the influence that goes the follows, while becoming one of the most powerful philanthropists on the planet whose singular focus is girls and women.

In her quest to find a woman to lead her campaign, Melinda Gates expressed her desires.

"I kept looking for the advocate who would champion these issues. I knew it had to be a woman. We would talk inside the foundation, 'Could we get this person or that person?'"
"I considered other women leaders. But I couldn't find the one who embodied to me the voice of women around the world. And so I thought, 'If I'm the one, then I just need to do it. I have to have courage and not worry.'"

Melinda Gates asks the following, most pressing question concerning girls and women of the world.

"What's the most pressing issue of our time? It really is ending poverty in the world. And we know to do that you have to put women and girls at the center."

[Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]