Prashant Panjiar/Bill & Gates Foundation
Caitlin Keating
June 26, 2017 02:29 PM

It comes as no surprise that Melinda Gates —who has helped millions of people around the world — loves America for many reasons.

“We’re a nation of optimists,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s special 100 Reasons to Love America double issue. “We’re always striving to invent a better future.”

Part of that future, according to Gates, is making sure that women and underrepresented minorities are equally empowered to contribute to the world of technology.

“The data consistently shows that diverse teams are more successful and innovative, so this is something that will absolutely benefit everyone,” she says, and has devoted her time to making a difference through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. One innovation they foster is contraceptive care.

“Everything we do at the foundation is grounded in our belief that all lives have equal value,” she says. “So, we’re always trying to find opportunities where a relatively small investment can have an outsized impact on people’s lives. That’s why we invest in contraceptives around the world.”

“Empowered women and girls transform societies—and when women have the tools to plan and space their pregnancies, the benefits keep multiplying. Women and their babies are healthier, children grow up better educated, and over time, entire economies become more prosperous,” she says. “Multiply that across millions of families and you start to understand why contraceptives are one of the greatest antipoverty innovations the world has ever seen.”

The women she meets are the ones who inspire and motivate her every day to continue to do great work through the foundation.

“I spend a lot of time traveling to developing countries and sitting down with women to hear about their lives, their dreams for themselves and their families, and the barriers that are standing in their way,” she says. “Our foundation is a data-driven organization, but these women remind me that there are stories behind every statistic—and I’ve carried a lot of these stories home in my heart.”

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