Melinda Gates is an American philanthropist, former Microsoft employee, and co-founder (with her husband Bill) of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While not as famous as her entrepreneurial husband, Melinda has a pretty impressive pedigree outside of her marriage. Melinda “earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics from Duke University in 1986 and an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in 1987. Shortly after graduating from college, she joined Microsoft and participated in the development of many of Microsoft’s multimedia products, including Publisher, Microsoft Bob, Encarta, and Expedia.” Despite these successes, Melinda considers opportunities in computer science to be less now than in years past.
For example, when Melinda “was in college, 37% of computer science graduates were female. Now it’s 18%.” A big reason for this, she feels, is the genderization of video games. Games became more focused on action, adventure, killing, and sports which in turn saw a drop off of female participation.
The tech industry was already male dominated, and the promotion to males in videos games only made matters worse. In addition to the computer science issue, Melinda highlighted venture capital as a community that “needs to clean up its act.”
According to Melinda, VCs tend to “fund what they know.” And since most only know “male, white, Caucasian, in a hoodie, looks like a geek, comes from an Ivy League or equivalent school. That’s their funding criteria.” According to CNN Money, only “6% of VC partners today are women, Gates added, and a mere 3% of companies led by women get VC funding.”
In an effort to change the narrative, Gates is tackling the problem with her own money. “Over the next 18 months, she plans to finance groups with funding models that show a commitment to gender equity. She’s already partnered with Aspect Ventures, a San Francisco-based VC firm founded by two women” in an effort to develop the project.
“Moving money is what will move the industry for women,” she said.