An entire section of the Gates Foundation’s annual letter addresses Covid’s bleak impact on women.
Melinda French Gates has dedicated a lot of her philanthropic career to addressing gender inequality — first with her husband Bill Gates, now on her own. [Credit: Russell Watkins/Wikimedia Commons]

While some billionaires have their heads literally in the clouds, Melinda French Gates is using her wealth to invest in female founders.

French Gates is continuing her trend of advancing gender equality following her split from Bill Gates — her firm, Pivotal Ventures, was one of the backers of Female Founders Fund’s recent $57 million funding round. With $95 million in total assets, the Fund has raised the largest amount in seed money targeted at female entrepreneurs.

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This is the second time the philanthropist has wielded her wealth for the early-stage venture firm that invests solely in women-owned companies — French Gates also backed its $25 million round in 2016, according to Fortune.

“I firmly believe we are missing out on transformational ideas by not putting resources behind women,” French Gates said in a statement. “I’ve invested in the Female Founders Fund because we need women founders and funders at the table if we want to build a more prosperous and inclusive economy for everyone.”

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Houseparty CEO Sima Sistani and 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki are among other prominent investors taking a chance on female-led businesses. 

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FFF’s founding partner, Anu Duggal, is thrilled to have cultivated such a generous supporter in French Gates. 

“Melinda has been incredibly vocal and supportive of really moving the needle to ensure we are seeing true gender equality in tech,” Duggal told Fortune. “We were one of her early investments at Pivotal, which was formed to address this gap in the market. She’s been really excited about what we’re building, and we’re excited to have her continue to support in fund three.”

The FFF launched in 2014 with $6 million, and has since backed over 50 companies, including businesses focusing on women’s mental and physical health. Duggal now aims to fuel companies addressing climate change and work-efficiency issues.

“We are excited to continue to invest in what we view as high-caliber female founders who are solving big problems and tackling opportunities,” Duggal told Inc. “When you look at the types of companies that are coming out of the pandemic, you’re seeing an incredible wave of women building companies that tackle problems that they themselves have encountered.”

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Editor’s Note: The Story Exchange is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching the annual Women In Science Incentive Prize. Apply now for a chance to receive $5,000 in funding for your climate-related research or startup. Deadline: July 31. 

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