Melinda Gates wants to see more women in power and she's pledging $1 billion to make it happen

The gender gap is so wide, you could probably fall into it. Women make, on average, 77% of what their male counterparts make. Only 24 S&P 500 companies are run by women, and when Forbes came out with their list of the top 100 innovators this September, a whopping total of one woman made the list. Barbara Rentler, the CEO of Ross Stores, got the honor. But the gender gap, oddly enough, extends into our efforts to fix the gender gap. In an op-ed for Time, Melinda Gates highlighted the inequality in how much we're spending to address women's issues. She also pledged to put $1 billion over the next 10 years towards creating gender equality. "I believe that women's potential is worth investing in—and the people and organizations working to improve women's lives are, too," she wrote in Time.

It turns out, projects that support women receive less funding than other projects. "Data from Candid's Foundation Directory Online suggests that private donors give $9.27 to higher education and $4.85 to the arts for every $1 they give to women's issues," wrote Gates. First we make less, now this?


Debates over reproductive issues have been getting a lot of ink. Other issues not so much. "90 cents of each dollar donors spend on women is going to reproductive health. As absolutely essential as reproductive health is, we also need to fund other unmet needs," notes Gates. In other words, programs that support abortion rights are more likely to receive funding than programs that support women in STEM. Our intellectual endeavors deserve the same amount of support as our reproductive ones.

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The gender gap is closing slowly, and the lack of financial support many initiatives receive might be a reason why. In the Harvard Business Review, Gates pointed out that the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index found that, at the rate we're going, the gender inequality gap won't close in the U.S. for 208 years. In comparison, it will take 74 years to close in England, and 51 years to close in Canada. We've got some catching up to do.

Gates delineated a three-part plan to tackle the issues holding women back. "First, dismantling the barriers to women's professional advancement," she wrote. "Second, fast-tracking women in sectors with outsized impact on our society—like technology, media, and public office." Last but not least, "Third, mobilizing shareholders, consumers, and employees to amplify external pressure on companies and organizations in need of reform."

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Gates' $1 billion will go towards funding and growing female-focused programs through Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation firm founded by Gates in 2015. According to Gates herself, Pivotal Ventures "works to drive social progress for women and families in the United States." The specific initiatives will be announced later.

Gates and her husband, Bill, have a collective net worth of $107 billion. She was named "the most powerful woman in philanthropy" by Forbes because of her work as the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Women's initiatives deserve to be taken seriously as other initiatives. Here's to closing the gender gap in every which way it exists.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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via Matt Radick / Flickr

Joe Biden reversed Donald Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military earlier this year, allowing the entire LGBTQ community to serve for the first time.

Anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. military goes as far back as 1778 when Lieutenant Frederick Gotthold Enslin was convicted at court-martial on charges of sodomy and perjury. The military would go on to make sodomy a crime in 1920 and worthy of dishonorable discharge.

In 1949 the Department of Defense standardized its anti-LGBT regulations across the military, declaring: "Homosexual personnel, irrespective of sex, should not be permitted to serve in any branch of the Armed Forces in any capacity, and prompt separation of known homosexuals from the Armed Forces is mandatory."

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