French Gates, 57, discussed the personal toll of ending her marriage to the Microsoft founder last year in a new interview with USA Today, which named her among its ‘Women of the Year’.
The $167 billion divorce was one of the most expensive in history.
“We all have low moments. I would say probably, though, for sure, my lowest moment in life was when I finally reached the decision that I knew I needed to leave my marriage,” she said.
“That wasn’t something I ever thought would happen to me. It certainly wasn’t what I thought on the day I got married, but I realised for myself, I needed to make a healthier choice.
“That was just a very, very sad day.”
The couple shocked the world in May 2021 when they announced the end of their 27-year marriage, with the divorce finalised in August.
French Gates said surrounding herself with the right people has helped her heal from the end of her marriage.
“I surround myself with people who have good values and are like-minded in the sense of caring about others,” she told USA Today.
“They’re there on my saddest days and my most joyful days and vice versa. I’m there for them.
“Without that group of people around me, friends and a few colleagues, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through some of my toughest days, particularly in the last couple of years.”
During an earlier interview with CBS, French Gates admitted the trust in her marriage had been broken and while healing has been a process, she felt she was through the worst of it.
“I feel like I’m starting to get to the other side. And I do feel like I’m turning a page in the chapter now,” she told interviewer Gayle King.
“I mean, it’s 2022, and I’m actually really excited about what’s to come and life ahead for me.”
While their marriage has ended, the former couple plans to continue to collaborate on their philanthropic work through the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
French Gates is now focused on helping to advance social progress for women and families through her investment company, Pivotal Ventures.
“The goal really is to create societal change for women and people of colour. I really feel like we need to accelerate their power and their influence,” she told USA Today.
She explains the pandemic has set women back a step in the United States, with many unable to return to work.
“A lot of that has to do with the burden they have of caregiving. And so I feel like this is a moment to say, ‘Look, how do we fix that system? And how do we make sure that women and people of color can take the jobs they want in society?’”