By the Women’s Philanthropy Institute
The Shaw-Hardy Taylor Achievement Award is named in honor of the leadership of two visionary women, Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha Taylor, who saw the potential for women’s engagement in philanthropy long before it became a trend or a strategy.
The criteria for the award are straightforward: someone who has moved women’s philanthropy forward and has demonstrated significant impact on the field. The award has been presented every three years since 2008, except for last year when the conferral was deferred due to the pandemic.
This year, we are especially honored to present the Shaw-Hardy Taylor Achievement Award to Melinda French Gates. Melinda is an extraordinary leader. She influences and inspires countless women and men around the world to serve, to strengthen their communities, and to be the best individuals they can be.
We are grateful that she has stepped fully into her philanthropy and her leadership. Her impact in philanthropy is staggering and the ripple effects from her public presence in the field are profound.
Melinda French Gates leads by example, whether by speaking out for family planning as a moral imperative, using stories to challenge assumptions and transform behavior, or leveraging the power of data at every opportunity.
At the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, we have watched Melinda grow into her philanthropic leadership, illuminating that philanthropy is a journey, especially for women, and our experiences with it differ at various times in our lives. Melinda has often talked about how her high school influenced her, especially its motto—Serviam—I will serve. Her family and school experience grounded her for her prominent role as a philanthropist.
Melinda uses her voice to tell stories and she leverages the power of those stories to catalyze change. Her book, The Moment of Lift, demonstrates how stories motivate people to action. In highlighting the ways individuals effect change in their communities, she challenges each of us to embrace the value of Serviam and make a difference in our neighborhood, our community, our nation, and the world.
At the same time, Melinda is committed to data and its power to provoke and persuade. Occasionally, the data on gender equality is shocking. Melinda has often highlighted the World Economic Forum estimate that it will take the U.S. another 208 years to reach gender equality. But she did not stop there.
She acted on the data, first with investments in Time’s Up and The Collaborative Fund for Women’s Safety and Dignity, and then with her $1 billion commitment to expanding women’s power and influence in the U.S. This is an incredibly visible example of leadership in action and a reminder to follow through on our commitments and convictions.
The Women’s Philanthropy Institute met Melinda French Gates at the intersection of data and gender. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $5 million investment in WPI over the past seven years is reshaping the philanthropic landscape and providing empirical evidence that gender matters in philanthropy.
Although it takes time to change behaviors, we hope that our research can galvanize the sector to move quickly, advancing gender equity and increasing giving by all to achieve the vital missions of nonprofit organizations. We are grateful for Melinda’s commitment to research as a tool to drive social change.
We love that Melinda has described herself as an impatient optimist. We love, too, that her new platform, Evoke, embodies possibility, potential, and promise. The combination of these attributes is what has driven women’s philanthropy forward throughout American history.
We are delighted to present Melinda French Gates—with her vision, leadership, commitment to what’s possible, recognition of data’s potential to change behaviors, and exemplary philanthropic spirit—with the 2021 Shaw-Hardy Taylor Achievement award for extraordinary contributions to moving women’s philanthropy forward.