In an interview with Reuters, Melinda Gates explained the principles that have guided her success and the vast responsibilities that come with that.
Q: As a marital team, do you and Bill have a philosophy about money you try to embody in your lives?
A: Even before we were married, we decided together that we wanted to give most of the wealth from Microsoft away. We both grew up in households that placed a lot of emphasis on giving back, so for us, starting a philanthropy was a question of “when” not “if.”
Initially, we figured we would wait until we were older and Bill had retired. But once we started learning more about the realities of extreme poverty and the possibility to drive progress for people around the world, we decided we couldn’t wait.
Q: How do you figure out how to maximize the impact of your charitable dollars?
A: It can be a surprisingly tough. Bill and I are both total data geeks. But we learned early on that when it comes to global health issues, there are a lot of gaps in the data, especially when it comes to data about women’s lives. In the poorest parts of the world, women often live and die totally unrecorded.
If you don’t know the contours of a problem, it is almost impossible to solve it. So one of our key efforts has been building a data infrastructure to help us better understand the problems the world faces so we can design smart solutions, set goals, and measure our progress toward meeting those goals.