Bill and Melinda Gates prioritize climate change and gender equality as the main global issues to tackle on the 20th anniversary of their foundation

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Bill and Melinda Gates

  • Bill and Melinda Gates celebrated the 20th anniversary of their philanthropic foundation by listing two new issues that they plan to tackle over the next 20 years: gender equality and the climate crisis. 
  • In an annual letter released Monday morning, the couple reminisced over their organization’s growth since it was founded in 2000, and walked readers through their vision for the foundation over the next 20 years. 
  • The Gates’ have already begun tackling gender equality, through Melinda Gates’ $1 billion pledge to address gender equality in the US over the next five years. 
  • The couple used a sports metaphor, first offered by their friend and investor Warren Buffett, to sum up the spirit of their approach to philanthropy: “swing for the fences.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Bill and Melinda Gates celebrated the 20th anniversary of their philanthropic foundation by setting two new issues that they plan to prioritize over the next 20 years: gender inequality and the climate crisis. 

In an annual letter sprinkled with baseball references like “grand slam” and “swing for the fences,” the co-founders of the Gates Foundation first reminisced about the organization’s work advancing global health and education over the past two decades. They then looked to the future. 

“The last 20 years have only deepened our commitment to advancing progress on global health and public education. But we’ve also developed a major sense of urgency around two other issues. For Bill, it’s addressing climate change. For me, it’s gender equality,” Melinda Gates wrote in the letter. “As we look ahead to the next 20 years, we will be swinging for the fences on these, too.” 

The foundation has spent $53.8 billion over the past 20 years, investing primarily in global health and development. Both of the Gates’ said that gender equality and climate change had emerged as priorities for them to address through their philanthropic work. And they view their efforts on these issues as connected to their older agendas. 

“Global health will always be a core focus of our foundation. This work will only become more important in the future, as climate change makes more people susceptible to disease,” Bill Gates said in the letter. 

“The cruel irony is that the world’s poorest people, who contribute the least to climate change, will suffer the worst,” Bill Gates later noted, as he warned that we were now at the stage where we didn’t just need to mitigate the effects of climate change but also adapt to it.

“Women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” Melinda Gates added. 

The Gates have already begun addressing gender equality. Back in October, Melinda Gates pledged to invest $1 billion to expand women’s power and influence in the country over the next decade. She kickstarted that effort in the tech industry this January, and announced a $50 million fund to invest in three emerging tech hubs beginning with Chicago. 

Meanwhile, the foundation still continues to invest in ways to improve global health or prevent disease epidemics. Most recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed up to $100 million to help keep the coronavirus epidemic in check. 

The couple summed up the spirit of their approach to running the Gates Foundation in a sports metaphor first offered by their friend and investor Warren Buffett.

“When you swing for the fences, you’re putting every ounce of strength into hitting the ball as far as possible. You know that your bat might miss the ball entirely—but that if you succeed in making contact, the rewards can be huge,” the Gates’ explained. “That’s how we think about our philanthropy, too.” 

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