Melinda Gates

time-100-2017-melinda-gates Photograph by Miles Aldridge for TIME 

Leadership takes many forms. Here’s one: A group of women sit on the ground in a circle. Most of them make less than $2 a day. They talk about their families, their fledgling enterprises, their dreams of better lives for their children. In their midst is Melinda Gates, listening.

You might think, Everyone listens. In fact, women like this are rarely heard, and few listen like Melinda. She listens with her complete attention and total empathy. Then she figures out how to use what she’s learned to make the world a more equitable place.

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Her vision for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped lift the lives of millions of people. Its work reflects her impatient optimism. Her ability to think big and move fast. Her love of numbers. (Bill’s not the only data geek in the family.) Her passionate commitment to empowering women and girls, seen in the foundation’s support for increasing access to contraceptives in developing countries. Her fundamental belief in human dignity. It’s all there, woven tightly into the DNA of one of the most ambitious and generous philanthropies in history. And with the launch of her new organization, Pivotal Ventures, Melinda has yet another avenue to effect meaningful change.

Her impact will be felt for generations to come.

Sandberg is the COO of Facebook, founder of LeanIn.org and author of Option B

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