- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation appoints a board of trustees, bringing independent and diverse perspectives to help strengthen the foundation’s governance
- The governance change comes after the death in late 2020 of Bill Gates Sr., Bill Gates’ father, an honorary co-chair, and a long-time guiding voice at the foundation
- It is also on the back of the decision by Warren Buffett last year to step down as a trustee after nearly 15 years
- It also represents an explicit recognition by Gates and French Gates, especially in the wake of their recent divorce, that the foundation will be well served by the addition of independent voices to help shape its work in the future
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has appointed a board of trustees, with Strive Masiyiwa, Baroness Nemat (Minouche) Shafik, Thomas J. Tierney, and Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman joining co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates as members.
The board members will work alongside Gates and French Gates, bringing independent and diverse perspectives to help strengthen the foundation’s governance.
Suzman announced the board members in the foundation’s inaugural annual letter, which highlights the foundation’s several efforts.
These include efforts to fight poverty and disease, the goal of creating a better, fairer world and its commitment to listening to diverse perspectives and deepening engagement with partners and communities where its work is focused.
The board announcement comes at a time of unprecedented global challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed, halted, and even reversed hard-won gains in global health and development around the world.
After nearly two decades of steady progress, tens of millions of people have been thrown back into poverty, childhood vaccination rates have dropped, and diseases from malaria to tuberculosis have re-surged.
Since January 2020, the Gates Foundation has committed more than $2 billion to the global COVID-19 response, with a focus on making sure support reaches marginalised communities quickly and effectively. The pandemic has had devastating effects on these communities, and it will take many years for them to recover.
This governance change comes after the death in late 2020 of Bill Gates Sr., Bill Gates’ father, an honorary co-chair, and a long-time guiding voice at the foundation, as well as the decision by Warren Buffett last year to step down as a trustee after nearly 15 years.
It also represents an explicit recognition by Gates and French Gates, especially in the wake of their recent divorce, that the foundation will be well served by the addition of independent voices to help shape its work in the future.
The board could include up to nine total members, with conversations ongoing about adding to the initial slate to enhance representation across gender, geography, and expertise.
“We are honoured that these three deeply knowledgeable and respected individuals have agreed to join the foundation board,” writes Suzman.
“Between them, they bring an incredible track record of impact across global business, philanthropy, and development, and we couldn’t be more excited to work with them.”
Besides introducing the new board members, Suzman discusses the foundation’s efforts to maximise its impact while ensuring that its work is increasingly inclusive.
That includes deepening engagement with developing country agencies and governments, establishing offices and growing its staff outside of the United States, and expanding grants to institutions closer to affected communities.
He also emphasises that in its next phase, the foundation will continue to prioritise areas where its resources and expertise will be most catalytic and to invest in high-risk areas where it’s more difficult to deploy public resources, from funding innovative treatments for malaria to supporting innovative disease modelling.
“Our new board members are strong, qualified leaders who will support the foundation and its partners in our work to promote a healthier, safer, more equal world for all. I am deeply proud of all that we have accomplished over the past two decades and energised to work with them to drive progress on some of the most important issues the world faces today,” said Melinda French Gates.
Suzman and Connie Collingsworth, the foundation’s chief operating officer and chief legal officer, led the work to strengthen the foundation’s governance at Gates’ and French Gates’ request, conducting a strategic review in consultation with external experts on best governance practices.
The new board members will bring their diverse expertise, experience, and perspective to advise the co-chairs and the foundation’s leadership team on budget and strategy.
The board will meet three times a year to guide the work of the foundation and approve the annual budget and four-year plan. They will also have the responsibility to review the CEO’s performance and approve the CEO’s compensation. Board members serve three-year terms, with a two-consecutive-term limit.
“Over the past 20 years, the scale and scope of our foundation’s work have evolved to include some of the most complex and urgent challenges the world faces,” said Bill Gates. “As we look ahead, I’m excited to welcome our new board members. Their wide-ranging experience and expertise will have an enormous impact on our ability to tackle the complexity of these challenges and bring us closer to realising a world where everyone has the chance to lead a healthy and productive life.”
Since its establishment 21 years ago, the foundation has provided more than $60 billion in grants, with the annual payout regularly increasing year over year.
Commenting on his appointment, Strive Masiyiwa, chairman and founder of Econet Group, said that he has worked with the foundation for over the last 20 years.
“I have worked with the Gates Foundation, beginning with efforts to improve agricultural production for over 400 million smallholder farmers in Africa, to improve livelihoods for the poorest people across Africa and the world. We have worked together to address global health crises like the Ebola and COVID-19 pandemics. I am honoured to join the co-chairs and the incredible team at the foundation in fighting disease and poverty throughout the world.”