Sara Blakely, youngest self made woman billionaire, becomes the first female member of the Giving Pledge, a group started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett that encourages rich people to donate at least half their wealth to charity.
The Gates Foundation announced their newest members on Tuesday, including eight other signatories. The group has a total of 114 members since its 2010 inception. The founder of shapewear brand Spanx has confirmed that she will be giving away most of her wealth in charity.
According to a report by Forbes, Blakely was approached by none other than Bill Gates himself to commit herself to philanthropy.
“After I appeared on the cover of Forbes, I got a call from Bill Gates’ office, saying Bill Gates wanted to have dinner with me,” Blakely, the youngest self-made woman on Forbes’ Billionaires list at 42, said. The dinner took place in Miami and was hosted by Gates and his wife Melinda Gates, who is also a Pledge co-founder. Other well known couples were also present at the dinner.
“I’m at a slightly different stage in my journey,” she said. Spanx is still a private company with entire ownership resting with Blakely. She said she has been keeping some portion of her profits for such things, “as I always knew I wanted to do something like this.”
It will be a good opportunity to learn under the guidance of veterans like Gates and Buffett, she said.
The woman billionaire has been working on helping women and girls. She did receive some early guidance from her friend and mentor Richard Branson, who himself is the first Brit to join the Pledge.
Just recently, Blakely donated $100,000 to The Empowerment Plan, which provides employment to homeless women who are paid to make sleeping-bag coats for other homeless citizens. Blakely met the project’s founder, 23-year-old Veronika Scott, at a summit in 2012.
Blakely sent a letter to the Gates Foundation on Tuesday, explaining her decision. The letter will soon be available on the Giving Pledge website along with a letter from other signatories.
“It was very emotional, writing it,” she said. “When I read it out loud, I cried. I have so much gratitude for being a woman in America. I wouldn’t have had these opportunities if I wasn’t born in the right place at the right time.”