Appearing on Sky News flagship programme, Emma Gill discussed the intracacies of the divorce between Bill and Melinda Gates and the pressures that can cause divorce even among those who have been married for years.
Q. They have obviously been married for a very long time and have said they will continue to work together. How challenging is that?
Emma: “It depends on the couple themselves and the tone they want to set for this new phase of their lives. The fact that both Bill and Melinda have taken the decision to issue identical notices on social media suggests that this will be a cooperative separation of their private lives while continuing with the very good work they do in their public lives.”
Q. There will be a lot of money on the table won’t there?
Emma: “Undoubtedly but that doesn’t mean things will have to be difficult. For the vast majority of your viewers, wealth is tricky when one divorces because there isn’t very much to go around. Whereas previously you had the combined mortgageability of the couple together, that then disappears. You have to divide not only the wealth in your home as well as the time with your children - these are challenges the Gates won’t face. They will face other challenges but not the ones the vast majority of the population do.”
Q. What in your experience are the reasons that couples get divorced after being together for such a long time?
Emma: “There are always flashpoints in a relationship - they can come very early, when you are burdened with young children and have chosen to expand your family, or perhaps as those children grow and the landscape of your lives together changes.
“To see couples divorcing after 25+ years isn’t unusual - in fact the 25-year marker seems to be a real trigger for people.
“One assesses what has happened over the last 25 years and whether they want to continue in that way. Clearly the Gates have taken a different decision - perhaps 25 was a different marker for them and given the world has changed a lot in the last couple of years, it is not an unusual thing.
“Their relationship can’t be considered a failure - they have three children they have raised together and an incredible foundation that is doing good works across the globe. All they are doing, I suspect, is re-evaluating what they want their future to look like and taking those paths as separate individuals rather than as a couple.”
Q: Melinda Gates will potentially walk away from this divorce with a large share of the finances. She has committed an enormous amount to the foundation thus far - if she were to move forward into a new female-led foundation, would it one of the biggest in the world?
Emma: “Undoubtedly. I think the focus has been on Bill Gates worth - yes, he was the genius who was the fundamental creative driving force in Microsoft but one forgets that this has been a partnership for the last 27 years. This has been the two of them acting co-operatively with the wealth being treated as their family wealth.
“This is something that we have in England - a focus on the couple as a partnership rather than the individual. Just because one party goes out to earn the money, while the other stays at home, it doesn’t mean that the person without the wage slip is making in any way a lesser contribution. Indeed, it is likely that the person going out to work couldn’t do so without the support of the other.
“I imagine that anything Melinda Gates chooses to do in the future will have direction and purpose and she will certainly have significant sums at her disposal to be able to further the works she has done already.”