Melinda French Gates wants women to ‘have their full power’ in politics
The recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade demoralized many women—both in the U.S. and abroad.
But not Melinda French Gates. It instead fueled the aspirations of the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Pivotal Ventures, and highlighted the critical need to ensure women are in seats of power and use that authority to create change.
“Had the Supreme Court been put there by women, I don’t think that decision would have happened,” French Gates told the audience at Fortune’s MPW Summit on Tuesday.
For so long, experts and women leaders have talked about “empowering women.” But French Gates says we need to stop with that line. “We have to make sure women have their full power in society,” she told the audience. “What do I mean by that? I mean that in your homes and communities and at the very top levels of society, women can control resources, make decisions, and shape policies and perspectives.”
French Gates pointed out that only a fraction of members of the U.S. Congress are women—and there are no Black women in the U.S. Senate. “Yet I look out in society and there are a lot of amazing Black women. So we can’t accept that anymore. We have to make sure women get into seats of power and take their power,” French Gates said. “That is what I’m committing my life to do, both through the foundation globally and Pivotal Ventures in the United States.” French Gates has already committed $1 billion of her own funds to Pivotal, which has the lofty goal of improving women’s lives in the U.S. and globally through investments and advocacy.
French Gates is both putting money directly into candidates’ campaigns for the upcoming midterms, and investing in a number of partners to create more access for women to run for office. “How do we help women and people who are LGBTQ fight the harassment in the system? That’s a big reason women don’t run for office,” she said. “How do we make sure their political campaigns are funded at the same level as a man’s—because it is expensive to run for office. It’s hard to run for office.”