As far as massively wealthy philanthropists go, few are more globally known than Bill and Melinda Gates. The husband and wife duo have donated billions to various causes around the world, and have been heavily involved in devising ways to raise standards of living across the world, albeit from a decidedly business-oriented, capitalist angle. And during an interview with CNN's Poppy Harlow, Melinda Gates relayed a message to President Donald Trump: keep up with foreign aid spending, and fund things that help women throughout the world.
Specifically, Harlow asked Gates what the number one thing the administration could do to improve the global state of affairs for women and girls. Gates paused in thought for a moment before answering, subsequently calling on the White House to fund initiatives that benefit women, in particular regarding women's health and family planning.
"To advance causes, they should put money behind them. If you believe in women, you fund things for women. You fund family planning, you fund women's health," she said. "The power is in the money. The way we've made progress in Africa, and India, and Bangladesh is we've funded things. Bangladesh, why have they had a lower population, why are they starting, eking by on a road to prosperity? It's because we funded family planning."
Gates is not the first person to call for widespread financial backing of women's initiatives, or an increased focus on health and reproductive rights. Access to contraception and abortion are two pillars of reproductive freedom, and studies have shown that in addition to liberating women from constant cycles of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, they have a positive effect in areas you might not necessarily expect.
As The Atlantic noted back in 2014, expanding women's ability to exercise choice and planning over having children almost invariably leads to fewer unwanted pregnancies, and improved living conditions. And in addition to benefiting the women who're given this new control over their own reproduction, the environment benefits too ― a lower birth rate thanks to women being given reproductive choice also ultimately eases strain on the Earth's natural resources, and lessens the intensifying pace of climate change.
Gates also discussed her conversations about women's issues with the president's eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, specifically about paid family leave. As Harlow noted, Ivanka has long been an advocate for maternity leave and for equal pay, so she asked Gates whether she viewed the 35-year-old first daughter and presidential adviser as an advocate inside the administration. Gates' reply was, essentially, that Ivanka is doing what she can.
I think she's doing her best. She certainly cares about families, and she cares about women. So I think she is trying to carry the water on this. And how far she gets remains to be seen.
Gates also acknowledged she had a conversation with Ivanka urging her to back paid family leave, rather than strictly maternity leave, although she denied that her input was what made the difference. Ivanka rolled out a paid family leave proposal in July, although no action's been taken on it since.
Ivanka also released a statement in August endorsing the administration's recent decision to do away with an Obama-era rule that required employers to gather data relating to equal pay. In the statement, Ivanka argued that the rule "would not yield the intended results."
It was a somewhat surprising move, given that it undermined her existing image as a staunch supporter of closing the wage gap between men and women. She's also recently been trying to tamp down the perception that she has a great deal of influence over her father's presidency, however, so even under ideal circumstances, it's unclear just how much she can do to actually advance those causes.