Susan Byrnes | Influence 100

Susan Byrnes 

Chief Communications Officer 
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 



With more than $49 billion in assets, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation may be the world’s largest private foundation, giving it outsized ability to achieve its goals of enhancing healthcare and alleviating poverty. In the last 18 months alone, the foundation spent $1.75 billion on the global fight against Covid-19. In June 2021, the Gates Foundation pledged to spend $2.1 billion on gender-equality work over five years, one of the largest single commitments in the foundation’s history. 

But the foundation’s high profile also brings unique challenges, which are the responsibility of Susan Byrnes, who has long focused on inequity — and finding solutions.  Byrnes became CCO, arguably the not-for-profit sector’s top communications role, in early 2020, after previously leading external communications for the foundation. From 2015 to 2017 she oversaw strategic communications for Gates Foundation grantee Malaria No More. Prior to that, she spent seven years in a variety of communications leadership roles, overseeing all aspects of the foundation’s global communications functions.

Byrnes previously spent a decade in journalism, first as a news producer for Italian national television (RAI-Uno) and then as a reporter for The Los Angeles Times. She also worked as a reporter, columnist, and editorial writer at the Seattle Times.