Melinda Gates: The education of one of the world’s most powerful woman

Melinda Gates, co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, addresses the "Rendez-Vous de Bercy" event at the economy ministry in Paris on January 22, 2019.

By U2B Staff 

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Bill and Melinda Gates are a formidable duo who have made headlines for their philanthropic efforts over the years. 

More recently, however, the billionaire couple has been grabbing headlines ever since the surprise announcement of their split after 27 years of marriage.


While Bill has carved himself a name via Microsoft Corporation, the world’s largest personal computer software company, equally accomplished is Melinda. 

Her LinkedIn profile notes that she is a “Philanthropist, businesswoman, and global advocate for women and girls.” 

The 56-year-old is known for being passionate about education and healthcare initiatives.

According to reports, an IBM recruiter had reportedly told her to join Microsoft — then an up-and-coming company — if she received a job offer with them, as she would have a better chance of career advancement there.

Melinda began her career at Microsoft in 1987. Years later, she would eventually marry Bill, Microsoft’s co-founder, in 1994.

Today, she is the co-chair and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This non-profit works with partners worldwide to tackle critical problems such as poverty, disease and inequity around the world.

Both Bill and Melinda had donated billions of their own wealth into the foundation.

Melinda donated 560 million US dollars in 2012 as part of a campaign to expand access to contraception for women in some of the poorest countries in the world.

In 2015, she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created to advance social progress in the US. 

She also secured the support of MacKenzie Scott in a US$40 million gender equality fund that will make its first awards this summer.

Melinda Gates’ education

Melinda’s love of computer science began early. 

Her father was an aerospace engineer who worked on the Apollo space programme. 

According to the National Women’s History Museum, when Melinda was 14 years old, her father purchased the Apple II computer, one of the first computers sold to consumers, and learned computer programming.

She convinced her parents to put it in her bedroom so she could play computer games, while love for science and technology continued when she attended Ursuline Academy of Dallas, an independent Catholic college preparatory school for young women in Dallas, Texas.

In her senior year, she took a campus tour of Duke University in North Carolina and fell in love with their computer science department. 

Melinda graduated from Ursuline Academy as the valedictorian of the class of 1982 before moving on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics at Duke. The university is currently ranked 42 in the QS World University Rankings 2021.

She then pursued her MBA at the Fuqua School of Business at her alma mater, Duke.


Melinda was recruited by Microsoft after graduating — she spent the first decade of her career developing multimedia products before leaving the company to focus on her family and philanthropic work.

“During my time at Microsoft, I managed teams that developed multimedia and interactive products including Expedia, Cinemania and Encarta,” her profile notes.

All three products were launched in the 90s. Microsoft Encarta, for instance, was a digital multimedia encyclopedia that was launched by Microsoft in 1993, before the likes of Google Search came into the picture later in the 90s.

As co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda shapes and approves the foundation’s strategies, reviews results and sets the organisation’s overall direction.

No doubt, her education has played a role in shaping her career and helping her ascend to a leadership position. It’s unsurprising why she’s ranked fifth in Forbes’ 2020 list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.

According to Forbes, in her next chapter, her mission is to close the funding gap for female founders through her investment and incubation company.