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Melinda Gates speaks in Kirkland, Wash. on Feb. 1, 2019.Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press

Philanthropist Melinda Gates has donated US$250,000 to a new prize celebrating women’s contributions to American and Canadian literature.

Organizers of the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction say Gates is backing the $150,000 award for female and non-binary authors through her investment company Pivotal Ventures.

Gates joins a list of high-profile supporters of the initiative to address the inequality women face in the publishing world, including celebrated authors Margaret Atwood and Jodi Picoult.

The annual award is set to be handed out each spring starting in 2023 after the launch was postponed by a year because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The prize will carry a $150,000 cheque for the winner, and $12,500 to four finalists.

Eligible women and non-binary writers must be residents or citizens of the U.S. or Canada, and the books must be published in English in those two countries.

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