The 42-year-old founder of lingerie company Spanx is the first self-made female billionaire to sign the Giving Pledge, an initiative by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates that encourages the world’s richest people to commit 50% of their wealth to philanthropic causes during their lifetime or after their death. Blakely was one of nine new billionaires to sign the pledge, bringing the total to 114 commitments.
“I pledge to invest in women because I believe it offers one of the greatest returns on investment,” says Blakely in a public letter posted on the Giving Pledge website. “I am committed to the belief that we would all be in a much better place if half the human race (women) were empowered to prosper, invent, be educated, start their own businesses, run for office – essentially be given the chance to soar!”
Blakely founded Spanx in 2000 to solve a simple problem: She wanted the body-slimming effect of a pair of control-top pantyhose but without the feet. Her clever invention quickly became a global phenomenon. Today the Spanx brand houses over 200 products sold in more than 50 countries, according to the company, and she remains the sole owner.
“At this stage in my life, most of my time is dedicated to growing the business,” Blakely says in her letter. “My hope is that my continued investment in Spanx will pay even greater dividends to help women.”