Melinda French Gates will step down as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the nonprofit she and her ex-husband Bill Gates, founded and built into one of the world’s largest philanthropic organisations over the past 20 years.

 “This is not a decision I came to lightly,” French Gates posted on the X platform on Monday. “I am immensely proud of the foundation that Bill and I built together and of the extraordinary work it is doing to address inequities around the world.” She praised the foundation’s CEO, Mark Suzman, and the foundation’s board of trustees, which was significantly expanded after the couple announced their divorce in May 2021.

 “The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy,” French Gates wrote in her statement. She organises some of her investments and philanthropic gifts through her organisation, Pivotal Ventures, which is not a nonprofit.

 Bill Gates thanks French Gates

 In a statement, Bill Gates thanked French Gates for her “critical” contributions to the foundations, saying, “I am sorry to see her leave, but I am sure she will have a huge impact in her future philanthropic work.” French Gates will receive $12.5 billion as part of her agreement with Bill Gates, which she said would commit to future work focused on women and families.

 The Gates Foundation did not immediately return a request for comment about whether those assets would come from the foundation itself. In an emailed statement, the foundation said Suzman announced the decision to employees on Monday.

 “After a difficult few years watching women’s rights rolled back in the US and around the world, she wants to use this next chapter to focus specifically on altering that trajectory,” Suzman said of French Gates.

 Suzman said he knew many had joined the foundation in part because of their admiration for her advocacy, especially around gender equity.

 “I know how beloved Melinda is here,” Suzman wrote.

 The Gates Foundation’s endowment was $75.2 billion as of December 2023, and in January, it announced that it planned to spend $8.6 billion on its work in 2024.

 The Associated Press receives financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for news coverage in Africa and from Pivotal Ventures for news coverage of women in the workforce.