By Nicole Brodeur
The Seattle Times.
You don’t feel her coming. There are no pilot fish swimming ahead of her, doing reconnaissance. The air pressure in the room doesn’t change, as it could when half of an $80B couple approaches.
Melinda French Gates just walks in, in a white top and slacks. Hair curled, hand outstretched, smiling. The woman who ranks third on Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful women and the co-founder of a foundation that is taking on global problems sends out a vibe of “no big deal.”
At heart, Gates is still that Dallas-born Catholic girl who scrubbed ovens in her parents’ rental properties. Still the math geek who thrives on numbers. And she is just like any mother who stayed home with her kids and now, with the youngest almost 13, is dealing with them growing up and away.
“This past Friday night, Bill and I suddenly found ourselves home alone,” she said, seated in a conference room just steps from her office at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Because, as you know, teenagers, their schedules change at the last minute. All of a sudden, it’s like, ‘We’re home alone, we have a 10 o’clock pick-up from a dance, but wow, what are we going to do tonight?'”
So what did they do?
“We watched a movie. Tossed in a DVD. It was great.”
It was precious downtime at what seems to be a pivotal time in Gates’ life.
She just turned 50. The foundation marked its 15th anniversary this month. Employees came in from all over the world for a Global Partners Forum to celebrate their successes and set goals for the next 15 years, including eradicating four diseases, getting Africa to feed itself with its own farming, expanding online education and using cellphones to bring mobile banking to remote areas.