What keeps Melinda Gates up at night? The thought that people will move on from addressing systemic gender inequality. That the groundswell surrounding #MeToo will recede. That companies will only pay lip service to fixing gender inequities at work rather than prioritizing them.
"There is too much at stake to allow that to happen. Too many people--women and men--have worked too hard to get us this far. And there are too many possible solutions we haven't tried yet," writes Gates in an op-ed for Time, where she announced that she will earmark $1 billion toward U.S. companies and organizations taking innovative and diverse approaches to expanding women's power and influence. That commitment is expected to last 10 years and will continue on Gates's prior goals to bolster women and girls' empowerment.
Gates, who is the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Pivotal Ventures--an investment and incubation vehicle that launched in 2015 out of Seattle--says those funds will focus on three main priorities. First, she'll aim to eliminate barriers to women's professional advancement by helping companies or groups working to alleviate some of the household burdens that often fall to women like taking care of children or an aging parent. Second, she'll look to "fast-track" women in game-changing industries like tech, media, and public office by, among other things, creating new pathways for women into these industries. Third, she wants to help consumers, shareholders, and employees to pressure companies to act against gender inequity and hold them accountable. She'll do this by funding companies and organizations that aim to collect data on women--particularly women of color.
Updated with clarification from Pivotal: Gates will distribute these funds through Pivotal, which plans to deploy investment and philanthropic capital toward new and established partners. In other words, some of those earmarked funds may not need to earn a return or be repaid. Past Pivotal investments have been structured as both investments and philanthropic grants.
Gates herself offered more depth about her three-part plan in a recent cover story for Harvard Business Review. The strategies outlined there, says a Pivotal spokesperson, will determine how the $1 billion in funds get allocated.