Melinda Gates is an American philanthropist, investor and writer who is better known as the ex-wife of Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates. She was a marketing manager with Microsoft before her marriage to Bill and shares with him three children: Jennifer Katharine Gates, an equestrian, show-jumper and medical student; Rory John Gates, a law student; and Phoebe Adele Gates, a trained ballerina. She is the co-founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Melinda Gates is one of the most powerful women in the world according to Forbes and remains one of the world’s wealthiest persons despite separation from her husband. She shares several prestigious national and international honors with Bill Gates.
She Is the Daughter of an Apollo-program Engineer
Melinda Gates was born as Melinda Ann French on August 15, 1964 in Dallas, Texas, United States, to Raymond Joseph French Jr., an aerospace engineer and house-rentals agent, and Elaine Agnes Amerland, a homemaker. She grew up in a Catholic family alongside two brothers and a sister. Her father, who was the first in the family to go to college, went on to join a company that worked with NASA on the Apollo missions. She witnessed rocket launches with her father as a child and often did science projects with him. Her loving, supportive parents taught her that no door was closed to a girl.
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She Was Introduced to the Apple II as a Teenager
Melinda Gates was the top student of her class at St. Monica Catholic School in her neighborhood and loved math most. She was about 14 years old when she was introduced to the Apple II by her teacher Susan Bauer at the all-girls Ursuline Academy of Dallas. Within a couple years, her father brought home an Apple III, on which she “spent hours playing games and learning the BASIC programming language”. According to her teacher, she even helped other students learn programming. She later earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and economics from Duke University in 1986, followed by an MBA from Duke's Fuqua School of Business in 1987.
She Met Bill Gates as a Microsoft Employee
Melinda Gates had been working at Microsoft for four months when she first met the company’s co-founder Bill Gates in 1987. The two sat next to each other at an Expo trade-fair dinner in New York, and according to her, “He was funnier than I expected him to be.” When they met again months later in the Microsoft car park, he asked her out, but she was not amused to learn that he was busy for the next two weeks. Nevertheless, the two soon began dating and eventually got married in a private ceremony held in Lanai, Hawaii in 1994.
She Joined Microsoft by Chance
After graduating from Duke University, Melinda Gates spent the summer of 1986 working as an intern for IBM. After completing her MBA the next year, she was offered a position at the company due to her prior experience with IBM. By a stroke of luck, she told the recruiter that she had “one more interview--at this young company, Microsoft”. According to her interview with the Fortune magazine, the recruiter encouraged her to take the job if she got it “because the chance for advancement there is terrific.” Soon after, she joined Microsoft as a marketing manager.
Her Secretive Lifestyle Earned Notoriety Following Marriage
During her high-profile romance with Bill Gates, and especially after their marriage, Melinda Gates earned notoriety for her determination to stay out of limelight as media outlets struggled to gather information about her past life. According to a 1995 profile of her on The Seattle Times, part of her agreement with Bill was that she remained private. She wrote to neighbors at her former Seattle residence to not talk about her, asked her school in Dallas to do same, and made hired workers at her wedding sign non-disclosure agreements. She turned down numerous requests for interview by prestigious magazines and even cut down her outside activities by quitting from boards of several local organizations.
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A Trip to Africa Spurred Her into Philanthropy
Melinda Gates, who helped create the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and serves as its co-chair, has had an important role to play in the couple’s interest in philanthropy. She has stated that she was inspired to found a charitable organization after a visit to Africa in 1993. Originally on a trip to experience wildlife, she was touched by “the people, and the extreme poverty”. In 1994, her husband donated $5 billion worth of stock to establish the William H. Gates Foundation, which was later merged with the Gates Learning Foundation in 2000 to create what is now the largest private foundation in the world.
She Wrote a Book about Empowering Women
Melinda Gates, who is one of few successful women in the male-dominated field of technology, is determined to increase diversity in the workplace. In 2015, she founded Pivotal Ventures, which aims to, among other things, reduce gender gap in tech. In 2019, she published her memoir, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, and also wrote in a Father’s Day blog post about her father’s contributions to fuelling her aspirations.
She and Bill Gates Divorced After 27 Years of Marriage
Melinda Gates and Bill Gates, who completed 27 years of marriage, announced through a Twitter statement on May 3, 2021 “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage.” The Wall Street Journal reported that one of the primary reasons was Bill’s dealings with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, about which she had warned him back in 2013. Melinda Gates reportedly talked to divorce lawyers in October 2019, but the couple waited for their youngest child, Phoebe, to turn 18. Despite separation, the couple has assured that they will continue to “work together at the foundation”. Interestingly, according to recent media reports, Bill had an unusual agreement with Melinda Gates that allowed him to visit his ex-girlfriend Ann Winblad once a year.