The incredible life of Melinda Gates - one of the world's richest and most powerful women

Melinda GatesMelinda Gates speaks onstage at Glamour's 23rd annual Women of the Year awards on November 11, 2013 in New York City.Larry Busacca/Getty

Melinda Gates is best known as Bill's other half. Some may even say she's his better half.

Melinda - who shares an estimated fortune of $89.4 billion with her husband - has become one of the most powerful female philanthropists in the world as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she helmed virtually on her own for the first six years of operation.

In addition to the pair's education and healthcare initiatives, Melinda takes a personal interest in women's issues around the world. At the forefront of her agenda is expanding the availability of contraception and, most recently, bringing awareness to the concept of time poverty - the notion that hours of daily unpaid work like household chores end up "robbing women of their potential."

"When you invest in women, you invest in the people who invest in everybody else," she wrote in a Fortune article last year outlining the benefits of hiring women in business. "And if you gradually start to take action, it won't be long before you realize that investing in women is good for your mind, good for your soul, and good for your business."

On International Women's Day, a celebration of women's progress and achievements, here's a look at the incredible force that is Melinda Gates.

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Melinda Gates (neè French) grew up in Dallas, Texas, with her parents — a stay-at-home mother and an aerospace-engineer father — and her three siblings. The family belonged to the local Roman Catholic parish.

Melinda Gates (neè French) grew up in Dallas, Texas, with her parents — a stay-at-home mother and an aerospace-engineer father — and her three siblings. The family belonged to the local Roman Catholic parish.

Source: Telegraph

The Frenches were intent on sending all four of their children to college, so Melinda's father started a side business for rental properties. "We would help him run the business and keep the books," she said. "We saw money coming in and money going out."

The Frenches were intent on sending all four of their children to college, so Melinda's father started a side business for rental properties. "We would help him run the business and keep the books," she said. "We saw money coming in and money going out."

Source: Fortune

Melinda was valedictorian and head of the drill team at her high school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas. In 2007, the Gates Foundation donated $7 million to Ursuline for the construction of The French Family Science, Math, and Technology Center — a 70,000 sq. ft. LEED Gold certified laboratory and classroom building.

Melinda was valedictorian and head of the drill team at her high school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas. In 2007, the Gates Foundation donated $7 million to Ursuline for the construction of The French Family Science, Math, and Technology Center — a 70,000 sq. ft. LEED Gold certified laboratory and classroom building.

Source: Ursuline Dallas, Marie Claire

She went on to earn a double bachelor's degree in computer science and economics from Duke University and an MBA from Duke's Fuqua School of Business in just five years.

She went on to earn a double bachelor's degree in computer science and economics from Duke University and an MBA from Duke's Fuqua School of Business in just five years.

Source: Duke Today

But Melinda's dedication to her school work did not deter her from a social life. She was a member of Duke's Beta Rho chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. In a 1995 interview, a sorority sister remembered her as a serial monogamist and a reserved dresser.

But Melinda's dedication to her school work did not deter her from a social life. She was a member of Duke's Beta Rho chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. In a 1995 interview, a sorority sister remembered her as a serial monogamist and a reserved dresser.

Source: Heritage, Seattle Times

Melinda has been generous to her alma mater. Her gifts include The French Family Science Center, the University Scholars Program, and the DukeEngage Program. She also served as a Duke trustee from 1996 to 2004.

Melinda has been generous to her alma mater. Her gifts include The French Family Science Center, the University Scholars Program, and the DukeEngage Program. She also served as a Duke trustee from 1996 to 2004.

Source: Duke Today

Shortly after graduation, Melinda was recruited by Microsoft just after the company went public and its stock began to soar. During her time at the company, she served as project manager of Microsoft Bob, Microsoft Encarta, and Expedia.

Shortly after graduation, Melinda was recruited by Microsoft just after the company went public and its stock began to soar. During her time at the company, she served as project manager of Microsoft Bob, Microsoft Encarta, and Expedia.

Source: Seattle Times

At a company picnic, Bill asked Melinda if she'd like to join him on a date in two weeks. She turned him down because he wasn't spontaneous enough. Within an hour, Bill asked to take her out that night and she agreed. The pair kept a low profile at work and asked colleagues and family members to respect their privacy.

At a company picnic, Bill asked Melinda if she'd like to join him on a date in two weeks. She turned him down because he wasn't spontaneous enough. Within an hour, Bill asked to take her out that night and she agreed. The pair kept a low profile at work and asked colleagues and family members to respect their privacy.

Source: Business Insider, Seattle Times

Melinda calls the couple's first trip to Africa in 1993 the turning point. During a walk on the beach in Zanzibar, they decided to do something about the devastation they'd seen. Thus, the Gates Foundation was born.

Melinda calls the couple's first trip to Africa in 1993 the turning point. During a walk on the beach in Zanzibar, they decided to do something about the devastation they'd seen. Thus, the Gates Foundation was born.

Source: TED.com

In 1994, after seven years of dating, Bill and Melinda married in a secret ceremony on the 17th hole of a Hawaiian golf course after a pre-wedding fireworks display and a performance by Willie Nelson. The wedding tab was reportedly $1 million.

In 1994, after seven years of dating, Bill and Melinda married in a secret ceremony on the 17th hole of a Hawaiian golf course after a pre-wedding fireworks display and a performance by Willie Nelson. The wedding tab was reportedly $1 million.

Source: People Magazine

Melinda gave birth to their three children in 1996, 1999, and 2002. Though they won't be poor, the Gates children will not inherit their parents' billions, most of which will go to the foundation. "We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing," Bill said in 2014.

Melinda gave birth to their three children in 1996, 1999, and 2002. Though they won't be poor, the Gates children will not inherit their parents' billions, most of which will go to the foundation. "We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing," Bill said in 2014.

Source: TED.com

The Gates children have all been to Africa a number of times for philanthropic work. In 2014, Melinda and her eldest daughter traveled to Tanzania to do a homestay for the first time. In a TED talk last year, Melinda said, "As they get older, they so know that our family belief is about responsibility, that we are in an unbelievable situation just to live in the United States and have a great education, and we have a responsibility to give back to the world."

The Gates children have all been to Africa a number of times for philanthropic work. In 2014, Melinda and her eldest daughter traveled to Tanzania to do a homestay for the first time. In a TED talk last year, Melinda said, "As they get older, they so know that our family belief is about responsibility, that we are in an unbelievable situation just to live in the United States and have a great education, and we have a responsibility to give back to the world."

Source: TED.com

The Gateses are close friends with U2 frontman, Bono. He has said of Melinda: "Lots of people like him [Bill] — and I include myself — are enraged, and we sweep ourselves into a fury at the wanton loss of lives. What we need is a much slower pulse to help us be rational. Melinda is that pulse."

The Gateses are close friends with U2 frontman, Bono. He has said of Melinda: "Lots of people like him [Bill] — and I include myself — are enraged, and we sweep ourselves into a fury at the wanton loss of lives. What we need is a much slower pulse to help us be rational. Melinda is that pulse."

Source: Fortune

In 2006, Warren Buffett agreed to give 80% of his multi-billion dollar fortunate to the Gates Foundation. Buffett, a close friend of the family, told Fortune that Bill is "smart as hell, obviously ... but in terms of seeing the whole picture, [Melinda's] smarter."

In 2006, Warren Buffett agreed to give 80% of his multi-billion dollar fortunate to the Gates Foundation. Buffett, a close friend of the family, told Fortune that Bill is "smart as hell, obviously ... but in terms of seeing the whole picture, [Melinda's] smarter."

Source: Fortune

In 2014, Melinda joined Bill for a speech during Stanford's commencement. She gave advice to students and families about hands-on charity: "Let your heart break. It will change what you do with your optimism."

In 2014, Melinda joined Bill for a speech during Stanford's commencement. She gave advice to students and families about hands-on charity: "Let your heart break. It will change what you do with your optimism."

Source: Stanford

In 1995, a Seattle Times article predicted that perhaps Melinda would one day head up a Gates foundation. For the last 15 years, Melinda has been the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a private, global foundation with a $40 billion endowment.

In 1995, a Seattle Times article predicted that perhaps Melinda would one day head up a Gates foundation. For the last 15 years, Melinda has been the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a private, global foundation with a $40 billion endowment.

Source: Seattle Times, Gates Foundation

Today, Melinda is taking a number of domestic and world issues head-on. Despite her Catholic faith, she has recently worked to expand the availability of contraception for women, writing in a Fortune article that birth control is "too important to let it be a politicized issue."

Today, Melinda is taking a number of domestic and world issues head-on. Despite her Catholic faith, she has recently worked to expand the availability of contraception for women, writing in a Fortune article that birth control is "too important to let it be a politicized issue."

Source: Huffington Post, Fortune

Melinda describes the legacy she hopes to leave: "On the day I die, I want people to think that I was a great mom and a great family member and a great friend. I care about that more than I care about anything else."

Melinda describes the legacy she hopes to leave: "On the day I die, I want people to think that I was a great mom and a great family member and a great friend. I care about that more than I care about anything else."

Source: Fortune

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