Microsoft founder Bill Gates reportedly “pursued” several women in his office while married to his wife, Melinda French Gates, who is now estranged. Six women told the New York Times that Gates was known for making “graceless” approaches towards women both inside and outside the office.
On at least a few occasions, Bill Gates pursued women who worked for him at both Microsoft, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to a report by the New York Times.
Six current and former staffers told the newspaper that the billionaire’s questionable conduct created, at times, an uncomfortable workplace environment, and that Gates was known for making graceless approaches toward women, both in and outside of the office.
Gates’ behavior was reportedly a recipe for gossip among employees.
In one example, Gates asked out a Microsoft employee via email in 2006, after a presentation she gave at the company. Following her presentation, Gates immediately left the meeting and emailed the woman to ask her out to dinner, according to two sources familiar with the incident.
“If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened,” Gates wrote to the female employee, according to sources who spoke to NYT.
The woman did, in fact, feel uncomfortable, the sources said, adding that she dealt with the situation by pretending it had never happened.
In another example a few years later, Gates was on a work trip, traveling with a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation employee. The woman told NYT that while standing with her at a cocktail party, Gates lowered his voice, and said, “I want to see you. Will you have dinner with me?”
The woman recalled feeling uncomfortable at that moment, adding that she simply laughed in order to avoid responding to the billionaire’s question.
Some of the employees told NYT that while they did not agree with Gates’ behavior, they did not consider him to be acting in a predatory manner, noting that the women didn’t feel pressured to give in to his advances for the sake of their careers.
While it’s not clear whether Melinda French Gates knew about these advances, she was reportedly unhappy about how her husband handled a 2018 sexual harassment claim against his longtime money manager, Michael Larson, who still remains in his job.
Moreover, Melinda was not pleased to find her husband associating with the now-deceased pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and expressed her dismay. Gates, however, continued to associate with Epstein, according to sources who were present or briefed on gatherings between the two men.
Later, in 2019, when her husband’s ties to the pedophile were exposed, Melinda hired divorce lawyers.
“She decided that it was best for her to leave her marriage as she moved into the next phase of her life,” one source told NYT.