She is co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She worked at Microsoft, where she was project manager for Microsoft Bob, Encarta and Expedia.
Melinda Ann French was born on August 15, 1964 in Dallas, Texas. She is the second of four children to Raymond Joseph French Jr., an aerospace engineer, and Elaine Agnes Amerland, a homemaker. French has an older sister and two younger brothers.
French, a Roman Catholic, attended St. Monica Catholic School, where she was the top student in her class year.
She graduated as valedictorian from Ursuline Academy of Dallas in 1982. She 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. At Duke, French was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Beta Rho Chapter.
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.
She met Bill Gates while working at Microsoft. In 1994, she married Gates in a private ceremony held in Lanai, Hawaii. Shortly thereafter, she left Microsoft to focus on starting and raising her family. Her last position there was General Manager of Information Products. Melinda and Bill Gates have three children: daughters Jennifer Katharine Gates (born 1996) and Phoebe Adele Gates (born 2002), and son Rory John Gates (born 1999). The family resides in Bill Gates's house on the shore of Lake Washington near Seattle.
Gates served as a member of Duke University's board of trustees from 1996 to 2003. She attends Bilderberg Group conferences and holds a seat on the board of directors of the Washington Post company. She retired from the board of Drugstore.com in August 2006 to spend more time working for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
As of 2014, Melinda and Bill Gates have donated $28 billion to the Foundation.
Gates and her husband were floated as possible vice presidential picks, according to an email from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta.
In 2002, Melinda and Bill Gates received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
In December 2005, Melinda and Bill Gates were named by Time as Persons of the Year alongside Bono. Melinda and Bill Gates received the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation on May 4, 2006, in recognition of their world impact through charitable giving.
In November 2006, Melinda was awarded the Insignia of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, together with Bill Gates, who was awarded the Placard of the same order, both for their philanthropic work around the world in the areas of health and education, particularly in Mexico, and specifically in the program "Un país de lectores".
In May 2006, in honor of her work to improve the lives of children locally and around the world, Seattle Children's Hospital dedicated the Melinda French Gates Ambulatory Care building. at Seattle Children's (then called Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center)
She chaired The Campaign for Children’s, a $300 million comprehensive fundraising drive to expand facilities, fund under-compensated and uncompensated care, and grow the hospital’s research program to find cures and treatments.
In 2007, Melinda Gates received an honorary doctorate in medicine from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
On June 12, 2009, Melinda and Bill Gates received honorary degrees from the University of Cambridge. Their benefaction of $210 million in 2000 set up the Gates Cambridge Trust, which funds postgraduate scholars from outside the UK to study at the University.
In 2013, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Duke University as a tribute for her philanthropic commitment. She was also ranked #3 in Forbes 2013 and 2014 lists of the 100 Most Powerful Women, #4 in 2012 and #6 in 2011. And Armchair Advocates added Gates to the list: "100 Tweeters of Social Good You Have to Follow in 2013."
Gates was appointed an honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2013 for her services to philanthropy and international development.
Gates has also donated over $10 million to her high school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas. She is one of the major donors of their Facing the Future Campaign and was honored in their dedication ceremony on May 7, 2010.
In recognition of the foundation's philanthropic activities in India, Bill and Melinda Gates jointly received India's third-highest civilian honor, Padma Bhushan, in 2015.
In 2016, President Barack Obama honored Gates and her husband with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their philanthropic efforts.
In 2017, Gates was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 12 in the list of 200 Most Influential Philanthropists and Social Entrepreneurs Worldwide.
In 2017, President François Hollande awarded Gates and her husband with the France's highest national award - Legion of Honour in Paris for their charity efforts.
In 2017 she was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal 2016 of the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN), Berlin-Brandenburg, ″for outstanding services to peace and international understanding″ in the historic Berlin Town Hall.
In September 2016, Melinda announced her desire to begin working on an important issue, the lack of women in technology, saying:
She explained that for the next two years she would be in "learning mode" after which she would begin addressing the problem.