The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday pledged $2.1 billion to advance global gender equality in the next five years, with a focus on health and family planning programs, economic empowerment projects and other initiatives.

This announcement was made during the Generation Equality Forum convened by United Nations Women in Paris. The forum was expected to happen last year, which marked the 25th anniversary of the landmark 1995 Beijing women's conference. The meeting had been postponed due to the pandemic.

The pledge, which amounts to about $420 million a year, is among the largest single commitments in the Gates Foundation's history. The funding will support women with training and financial services, increase access to contraceptives and elevate women into leadership roles in health, law and economics.

The foundation’s deepened commitment comes weeks after the couple announced their divorce. Gates Foundation Chief Executive Officer Mark Suzman said that while Melinda French Gates is the “primary face and voice” of the foundation’s gender-equality work, “Bill is very deeply engaged as well.” 

Advancing gender equality is a core area for the Seattle-based foundation, the country's largest private charitable group. Their other major commitments include polio eradication and the development of vaccines. 

"The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow," Melinda French Gates said in the announcement. She added that it was time to "reignite a movement and deliver real change."