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In the world of philanthropy, there are many influential women who are making a difference. This post highlights five female philanthropic leaders, their work, and some details from their backgrounds.

Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates is the other half of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation that exists. The foundation focuses on four major areas which include tackling global as well as US issues. Before forming her current foundation, Melinda was involved with the William H. Gates Foundation, named after Bill’s father, the Gates Learning Foundation, and the Gates Library Foundation. After receiving a $30 billion donation from Warren Buffett, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation adopted its current structure where it focuses on four specific areas. Later last year Melinda announced her intention to focus on the lack of women in technology.

Susan Alice Buffett

Susan Alice Buffett is Warren Buffett’s eldest child. Although she maintains a low profile, she is the person behind two large philanthropic organizations, the Sherwood Foundation and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which is named after her late mother. The Sherwood Foundation’s mission is to “promote… equity through social justice initiatives enhancing the quality of life in Nebraska” (About Us). The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation does similar work. It focuses on college scholarships and administering the Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award.

Patricia Harris

Patricia Harris serves as the CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic organization. Patricia has worked with Bloomberg for a number of years. She was previously First Deputy Mayor of the City of New York under Bloomberg, and she worked at Bloomberg L.P before that. With Patricia serving as CEO, Bloomberg Philanthropies has become a powerhouse philanthropy. Bloomberg has consistently appeared at the top of philanthropic lists in part due to Patricia’s support.

Marilyn Simons

Marilyn Simons is one of the co-founders of the Simons Foundation, an organization that supports math, science, and autism research. The foundation’s other founder is James Harris Simons, the successful hedge fund manager behind Renaissance Technologies. Marilyn and her husband have signed the Giving Pledge, so their foundation will continue to give money for the foreseeable future. There aren’t many organizations that focus on the math and science fields which make the Simons Foundation’s contributions unique.

Susan Dell

Susan Dell and her husband Michael Dell founded the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in 1999. Many observers believe that the foundation is mostly Susan’s project which means she wields a lot of power related to the organization’s direction. The organization mostly focuses on education, family issues, and wellness. While the organization works all over the globe, it pays special attention to Central Texas where Dell was founded.