When Melinda Gates announced this week that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was pledging $1.5-bllion for women and children, the announcement reminded me of what I read a couple of years ago in Fortune Magazine. In an interview with Warren Buffett, he was asked if he would have given the Gates Foundation his fortune if Melinda were not in the picture, to which he replied, “That’s a great question. And the answer is, I’m not sure.” Buffett went on to say that he believes that Melinda makes Bill a better decision-maker. “He’s smart as hell, obviously, but in terms of seeing the whole picture, she’s smarter.”
And see the whole picture she does. One cannot but speculate that Melinda had a great deal to do with the recent gift. In fact, Bill said about philanthropy in that same article, “I don’t think it would be fun to do on my own and I don’t think I’d do as much of it.”
As we have reported in our new book, Women and Philanthropy: Boldly Shaping a Better World, to be published by Jossey-Bass in September, Gates’ remarks bear out what we hear across the board: in focus groups, research done by the Center on Philanthropy as well as a 2009 Fidelity study. Women have a strong influence on their spouses and on couple philanthropy.
Thank you Melinda for challenging the notion that high maternal and child deaths are unavoidable and for urging leaders of governments and other institutions around the world to make women’s and children’s health a higher priority. And thank you Bill for listening to and acting on your wife’s interests. May you both continue to be models for all couples.