“She realized ‘OK, I’m going to have to step into a global leadership position on this issue because no one else is really doing it, and I’ve been equipped,” said Dr. Darmstadt, who joined the foundation in 2008 and traveled widely with Ms. French Gates to places like India, Malawi and Tanzania. “I think it became clear to her that she had to use her voice on behalf of women.”
Creating parallel ventures
It was also in 2008 that Mr. Gates announced that he was stepping down from his full-time duties at Microsoft. He would remain chairman of the board and the company’s largest shareholder, but he said that he would devote himself to the foundation.
Yet that year he quietly incorporated a new company, called bgC3 LLC, in Washington State, for pet projects that were related to neither Microsoft nor the Gates Foundation. There, he incubated work on climate change and clean energy that became Breakthrough Energy, along with education and health projects separate from the foundation, especially work on Alzheimer’s. (He changed the organization’s name to Gates Ventures in 2018.)
然而就在那一年，他悄悄地在华盛顿州成立了一家名为bgC3 LLC的新公司，负责的项目与微软和盖茨基金会都无关联。在这家公司，他孵化出气候变化和清洁能源方面的成果，后来变成了突破能源联盟(Breakthrough Energy)，还有独立于基金会的教育和健康项目，尤其是对阿尔茨海默症的研究。（2018年，他将该机构改名为盖茨创投。）
In 2015, Ms. French Gates created a parallel world of her own, starting Pivotal Ventures, an enterprise focused on gender equality and social progress. In doing so, she was able to more fully explore interests that had been of little prominence in the early years of the foundation.
“I thought, ‘I want to have a company that has all the tools to work on social issues for women and minorities, even in addition to our education work that we were already doing in the foundation,” she said to The Times in October. “What I’m doing with Pivotal Ventures is gathering many other people around me to have these cohorts who work on these issues, and then also fund them at scale. We don’t fund things for women at scale. And we should.”
An organization ‘filled with uncertainty’
Former foundation insiders noted another force pushing Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates toward their separate initiatives: Struggles at the foundation over staffing levels.
“It was a constant tension point of the foundation. It was Warren who limited it, but Bill’s appetite is always, ‘We should do this, we should do this.’ Teams end up with this massive to-do list,” the former executive said.
Mr. Buffett acknowledged in an interview with The Times last year that he opposed institutional bloat. “That’s the one piece of advice I don’t shut up on, ever, because it’s the natural tendency of every organization,” he said.
Employees at the foundation often have to wear multiple hats to keep up with the demands. For instance, one staff member, Anita Zaidi, serves in the highly technical role of director of vaccine development and surveillance but also serves as president for gender equality.
Even without the divorce, the foundation was in the midst of change. Mr. Buffett, the third trustee, turns 91 this summer. Mr. Gates’s father, Bill Gates Sr., who was co-chair and a guiding hand at the foundation, died this past September. Some observers have wondered if the couple’s three children could get involved soon. The elder two are already in college and medical school. Others have raised the possibility that this is the moment to loosen the family’s grip and install a board drawn from professionals outside the inner circle.
即使没有这场离婚，基金会也已处于变动之中。第三受托人巴菲特今夏就将年满91岁。盖茨的父亲、担任基金会联合主席和指导人的老比尔·盖茨(Bill Gates Sr.)于去年9月去世。一些观察人士猜测这对夫妇的三个孩子是否很快就会参与基金会的工作。大的两个已经上大学和医学院了。其他人则提出这样一种可能，那就是现在应该放松盖茨家族的控制，将核心圈子之外的专业人士引入董事会。
“It’s a family foundation. Bill and Melinda’s names are on the door, which means anytime something changes there’s just this whole ripple effect,” said the former foundation executive. “You put this in the middle of it, it just feels like it creates even more uncertainty in an organization that’s always filled with uncertainty.”