Melinda Gates is taking on the tech community. This week, she announced a new venture aimed at getting more women into technology fields and keeping them there throughout their careers.
With her husband Bill Gates, Gates helps run the biggest philanthropy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has paid out almost $37 billion in grants since its inception in 2000. But now Gates wants to get back to her roots, telling tech outlet Backchannel earlier this week that while she’s spent the past 16 years focused on global philanthropy, she wants to see more change in the U.S.
“Every company needs technology, and yet we’re graduating fewer women technologists. That is not good for society. We have to change it,” she told the publication. The new initiative will be separate from the foundation, with a more specific focus around women in technology.
Currently, Gates says she doesn’t have a specific dollar amount in mind for the project, adding that she needs to gather more information. “On this particular issue, I am in this learning mode,” Gates said. “Then I will figure out exactly what investments I will place down.”
A key focus will be education. When Gates graduated and went into the tech industry in 1987, women made up about a third of computer science graduates. Today, less than 20% of these degrees go to women — a shift Gates attributes to the rise of male-centric gamification.
But education is only the first step. Gates says programs are needed to keep women in the workplace. A recent Glassdoor report of 534,000 employees found the gender wage gap among programmers was the highest. Men make, on average, 28.3% more than female programmers.
“There are all these hidden inequities, these biases, that men and women have bias about women working, what women should do,” Gates says. “But if we don’t look at those root inequities and we don’t talk about them and make them transparent, we won’t move forward as a society.”