Melinda French Gates

Melinda French

American Businesswoman, Philanthropist and Co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Author Quotes

This is the power of getting women together to talk about how cultural practices make a big difference. A lot of people think that our foundation is about innovations in science and technology and bio technology and that's absolutely true. But we also believe there is another type of innovation that is just as important and that is social and cultural change. We need to talk to women in a way that appreciates their culture but also helps them understand what will keep their children alive. So let me give you an example, if you say to a man or a woman, if you bath in a stream, and as soon as you get out of the stream, how do you feel when you get out of the stream before you put your clothes on and they say I feel cool, I feel chilled and they immediately are trying to dry off and put their clothes on. So you say to them that's exactly how your baby feels after it's born. As soon as it comes out it's starting to get chilled. You want to keep the baby wrapped up and warm. They say, Oh, of course, that just makes sense. Again, through gathering women together and talking with them about cultural practices you teach women to not wash their baby when it's first born to keep that baby wrapped up and warm to put that baby on their chest and kangaroo care it They have literally decreased infant mortality by 54% in this district over 18 months.

We do systematically really talk about what we're trying to do as a family. And it's not just [Bill and me] anymore; the children are very involved in that.

We have to be careful in how we use this light shined on us.

We set out what's going to be our work time versus our foundation time versus family time, and we'll reassess that... sometimes every week.

We started our foundation because we believe we have a real opportunity to help advance equity around the world.. to help make sure that, no matter where a person is born, he or she has the chance to live a healthy, productive life.

We started this mostly from an intellectual place.

We talk a lot in our home together about where we're going, what I'm doing.

We were driving down the road in what was then Zaire, now Congo, in our smart Jeeps and all the shops in the street were shut down. The women had no shoes and were carrying huge bundles of sticks on their heads with a baby in front and on their back. It was so different, you were almost assaulted by it, in a way that made you want to know more. So we went out into the villages, to understand, and the more we learned the more we wanted to do something to help.

We're lucky to have that challenge that we're trying to balance [work and family]. When I travel to the developing world and I meet moms, they'd like to be able to be working and bring some income in for their families, and they don't have that opportunity. So I always try to frame it for myself in that way.

What great changes have not been ambitious?

What I learn from talking to so many women around the world: If you can empower them with the right things, the right tools, they can lift up their family. And that ultimately lifts up their community and their society.

When I talk with a lot of my women friends who have their careers, sometimes [they will] go into a company or a situation where they often think they should be like somebody else? but when you learn to be yourself, and go where your passions are, I think fantastic things happen out of that... So my women friends and I talk about that a lot: Follow your passions, and just be who you are.

I think if you share a passion around something - anything - getting to discuss that routinely, getting to work on it, maybe, together, it's a whole other level - at least that's been our experience - that it can take your relationship to.

I think it's very important that we instill in our kids that it has nothing to do with their name or their situation that they're growing up in; it has to do with who they are as an individual.

I want to live as private a life as I can because of our children.

If [women in Nairobi] can talk about [contraception] openly, and have this discussion out amongst themselves in public, we can too. And we need to start now.

If we're going to make progress on this issue [of contraception], we have to be really clear about what our agenda is. We're not talking about abortion. We're not talking about population control. What I'm talking about is giving women the power to save their lives, to save their children's lives and to give their families the best possible future.

If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.

I'm grateful for having shared stories of motherhood with women around the world. You are my heroes and I celebrate you.

It is still just unbelievable to us that diarrhea is one of the leading causes of child deaths in the world.

My vision of happiness is a mother holding healthy baby in her arms.

One hundred years ago, on the first International Women's Day, women around the world took to the streets to demand basic rights, including the right to vote, the right to equal wages, and the right to an education -- an issue that the foundation is deeply engaged in. Today, as we honor those pioneers and celebrate a century of accomplishment, we should also look forward. In particular, we should ask ourselves: How can we build upon those accomplishments? What do we want our legacy to be one hundred years from now? For me, the measure of our success will be determined by one thing in particular: the health of women and children. On this International Women's Day, let us follow the example of the heroic women who came before us. Let us dream big dreams and make big plans. Let's work together to save the lives of mothers and children. Here is my vision: within the next 100 years, but hopefully much sooner, women everywhere will have the knowledge and the power to save their lives, and the lives of their babies. Yes, it is ambitious -- but if we don't imagine it, we will never achieve it. Let us take our dreams and turn them into action; together, we will accomplish extraordinary things.

I felt that I had a role to give some voice to the voiceless.

Our desire to bring every good thing to our children is a force for good throughout the world. It's what propels societies forward.

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Melinda French
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American Businesswoman, Philanthropist and Co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation