Melinda French Gates, a co-chair of the Gates Foundation, is likely behind the new pledge to support … [+] gender equality. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

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The Gates Foundation pledged $2.1 billion Wednesday to advance gender equality around the world, marking one of the foundation’s largest single commitments to date.

The foundation said money will be distributed over the next five years and focus on three areas: health and family planning, accelerating women in leadership and economic empowerment. Specifically, the foundation said it will seek to increase women’s financial inclusion, reduce barriers to paid work, expand access to contraceptives and boost women in leadership roles, primarily in health, law and economics.

“The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow. Now is the chance to reignite a movement and deliver real change,” Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said in a statement.

The commitment comes as the foundation, which has a $48.9 billion endowment, reels from its founders’ surprise divorce announcement last month. Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates will continue their roles as co-chairs, but the foundation will make changes to its governance structure to “provide long-term stability and sustainability” amid the divorce, CEO Mark Suzman said. Warren Buffett, a longtime friend of the Gates family and one of the foundation’s largest donors, resigned as a trustee last week, and Suzman said more changes are coming in July.

Gender equality has been of particular interest to French Gates. She played a major role in expanding the Gates Foundation’s focus to include women’s advancement over the last decade. And through her own company Pivotal Ventures, she is investing in organizations and startups that focus on social progress for women and people of color in the U.S.

Bill Gates, who has donated about $38 billion worth of Microsoft stock to the Gates Foundation over the years, is currently worth an estimated $127.7 billion, making him the world’s fourth richest person, behind Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault of France and Elon Musk. According to public filings, Bill Gates has so far transferred shares now worth about $3.1 billion to Melinda French Gates.

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