The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has devoted considerable time and resources to global health endeavors, but in the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up, it’s shifting its mission. In an op-ed posted on Quartz, Melinda Gates announced that the foundation will share $170 million over the next four years to help women exercise their economic power.
“As I spend more time visiting communities and meeting people around the world, I am convinced that we’ll never reach our goals if we don’t also address the systematic way that women and girls are undervalued,” Melinda Gates wrote. “We aim to help tear down the barriers that keep half the world from leading a full life.”
To spur change, the foundation will focus its money on “connecting women to markets, making sure they have access to financial services, and empowering them to help themselves.” That means, for instance, helping female farmers determine the fair price of goods with apps, and organize collectives for stronger bargaining power. It also means helping women in India and Tanzania open digital bank accounts that they—and not their husbands—control, and supporting groups where women teach other women.
There is a lot of research out there showing that funding female entrepreneurs through micro-credit, and empowering women economically, is one of the most promising ways to achieve gender equality. As Gates writes, “Simply put, when money flows into the hands of women who have the authority to use it, everything changes.”