Melinda Gates and the Business of Giving Back

While growing up, education always played a significant role in Melinda Gates’ household. It was her father’s belief in women playing an integral role on teams and in business, that shaped Gates’ belief in herself and inevitably in others. Melinda Gates is of the opinion, “when we invest in women and girls, we are investing in the people who invest in everyone else.”

Gates has, for many years, been a passionate advocate for women’s rights and foreign aid. She stands behind the idea that, to whom much is given, much will be required – for Gates, being born in the United States of America, puts her in a position where she is required to give back. Melinda Gates and her husband Bill, give in the tune of billions of dollars every year. However, when it comes to one’s means in giving, she is of the belief that “philanthropy is not about the money. It’s about using whatever resources you have at your fingertips and applying them to improving the world.”

Many persons tend to question why many philanthropists choose to make it their business to provide global assistance; the argument is why not just help those local — in their community? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has not avoided such criticism. However, Melinda Gates has a simple answer to the rather complex question. Gates, believes in the “and” – and, is the answer to how every individual can truly make a difference in the world. If we are to make a tangible impact, we must help ourselves and help others. Philanthropy, at its core, should be both local and global. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is indeed global — it is the largest private charitable foundation in the world. In regards to their foundation, Gates states “we started our foundation because we believe we have a real opportunity to help advance equity around the world, to help make sure that, no matter where a person is born, he or she has the chance to live a healthy, productive life.”

Their foundation is primarily focused on establishing systems that allow people to uplift themselves — for new generations to have a structure set in place that encourages success. She has learned that in every place the foundation seeks to assist the people who live there; it is important that the citizens drive the change and form the policies. The foundations role is that of an investor in the people’s vision — they know their needs better than anyone else. This idea of seeing a group of people as more than numbers but human beings, is pivotal if meaningful changes is to happen. Melinda Gates believes “It’s important to remember that behind every data point is a daughter, a mother, a sister—a person with hopes and dreams.”

Throughout the year, Melinda Gates travels to remote, ravaged and seemingly hopeless places around the world – she goes not only to deliver hope but to invigorate her soul’s desire to connect with other women from backgrounds unlike her own. She is constantly inspired during her travels, and has found that women regardless of who they are and where they come from, all want the best for themselves and their families. Gates’ advice when it comes to bridging the gap between countries, societies and cultures “connect deeply with others. Our humanity is the one thing that we all have in common.”

Family is a huge part of her everyday life. Melinda Gates may wear many professional hats, but it would seem her favourite one is that of wife to Bill Gates and the mother of three adult children. Melinda and Bill met in the early days of Microsoft and have since been inseparable. Prior to marriage, they were both committed to giving back much of any wealth they accumulated. The Gates, knew that the giving of mass amounts of money was a business in itself – surrounded by a team of many capable, bright individuals assisting them with their foundation, they are constantly in private conversation regarding where and how they should invest their fortune. Melinda Gates knows that striking the right balance is key “we set out what’s going to be our work time versus our foundation time versus family time, and we’ll reassess that… sometimes every week.”

She believes that how we live our life is most important. It is not about your name or your position, but what you do with your presence while on this earth. Many see a ROI or return on investment, as something that only benefits the person directly in the form of personal wealth, however giving is its own return on investment. It is all about investing in individuals, that creates a domino effect, that may very well come back around to the investor in many forms beyond wealth. In this life, we have all been in assisted in some way or the other and it is because of this that Melinda Gates believes, “You are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”

Author Bio: Toni Styles

Toni Styles, is a writer and blogger, living in Toronto, but born and raised in the Bahamas. She has edited several blogs over the years and had a weekly column featured in a leading Bahamian newspaper. She is currently working as an Outreach Associate with Powerful Outreach and as a writer for Toronto based fashion and art editorial, Novella Magazine.