If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
This is a question I’ve thought about several times throughout my life, and I’m guessing you have, too. When we think of superpowers we tend to think of superheroes, so naturally our thoughts move toward things like invisibility, flight, or being able to breathe under water—superhuman ideals that help us imagine the impossible as our reality.
Recently Bill and Melinda Gates were asked this very question by some high school students in Kentucky. As busy and involved parents, their answers matched what mine (and likely yours) would be: More energy, and more time.
Each year Bill and Melinda Gates write a letter outlining their views on the world’s most important issues. For this year’s letter, their answers about superpowers became the focus of how the world can be improved. Though the annual letter is written specifically with 15-year-olds in mind, asking teenagers to consider their ‘superpowers for good,’ I can’t help but apply it to moms like you and me.
On the surface, it’s easy to see why any mom would desire more energy and more time. Both are priceless resources which allow us to work more, to play more, to get more things done, to enjoy time with our families and friends. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find how these resources affect global communities, economies, and our collective well-being in a very real way.
In our Annual Letter, Bill and I write about two things everyone wants more of: time and energy. Here’s why we think they’re so important to unlocking progress for everyone—and what you can do to help: http://m-gat.es/1Qp2XRB
Posted by Melinda Gates on Monday, February 22, 2016
Bill Gates focuses on access to cheap, clean energy, pointing out that while climate change affects us all, those who are hit hardest are the world’s poorest (who are the least responsible for the carbon dioxide emissions that impact our weather patterns). Providing access to reliable energy resources lifts people out of poverty. Making the energy affordable means more people can have it; making it clean means fewer negative effects on our planet’s climate.
The way Melinda Gates talks about time poverty brings tears to my eyes. All over the world, women spend an average of 4.5 hours each day doing unpaid work, though for many women it’s as much as seven hours (or more when they are collecting water and firewood for example). What’s the unpaid work? It’s cooking, cleaning, caring for others, and the time women invest in this work is (on average) double what men do. Even in the United States women spend 90 minutes more each day on unpaid work than men.
What’s the cost of this extra, unpaid work? It’s a tradeoff in time: women aren’t as able to use their time for pursuits like health, education, careers, or other investments in the future. It’s well known that when women participate in the economy, poverty decreases.
What can be done?
Making affordable, clean energy available will lift the world’s poorest out of poverty. To make energy as clean as it needs to be to avoid long-term, dramatic changes to the climate, investment into scientific research is needed.
By saving women’s time, we can unleash their potential and change the world. We need to recognize that unpaid work is still work, and apply value to the way women spend their time. Reducing the time it takes to do household work through innovation, better policies and a close look at cultural norms and assumptions will lead to a more effective distribution of work between men and women to create even stronger families, communities and nations.
Take Action Challenge
You can read the entire 2016 Annual Letter, Two Superpowers We Wish We Had. What’s the superpower you wish you had? Upload a photo or share on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #superpowerforgood!
Lead photo of a girl holding a sign with her super power of choice. Photo courtesy Gates Foundation