TIME leadership

Melinda Gates on How Women Limit Their Opportunities

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, former Microsoft executive and spouse of the Uber-nerd has turned her attention to the issue of women and girls. Her purview is mostly the world’s poorest, but she had some things to say about how even educated and affluent women hold themselves back.

“They doubt themselves,” Melinda told TIME during this week’s 10 Questions interview. “Women don’t tend to see themselves as ready for the next role, as they ought to.” Gates, who recently raised $2.3 billion (that’s with a B) at the London Family Planning Summit, said that at first she didn’t want to head up the drive to make contraceptive choices available to women in developing countries. “I wasn’t sure I was the right person,” she said. “I kept looking for somebody else to lead the effort.”

But she noted that good managers can provide a simple workaround for this problem, simply by making sure to give the women a little nudge to throw their hats in the ring. “I think it’s up to the managers—men or women— to reach down and pull those women up and say, “No, you are ready for that promotion,” or, “You’re at least as qualified as the men.”

In the interview Gates also spoke about what she’s doing to make sure her kids handle their great wealth (including how they allocate their pocket money) and how she refocused her life after turning 50. Subscribers can read the interview here.

TIME society

Mattel Apologizes for Making Barbie Look Incompetent in Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer

Barbie

The sexist picture book has been slammed online

One of Barbie’s future careers should be in damage control.

Mattel and Random House found themselves at the center of an online firestorm this week when the Internet lampooned a book called Barbie: I Can be a Computer Engineer. A more accurate title would be Barbie: I Can be a Computer Engineer… If the Boys Do All the Work For Me.

Although Amazon lists the book as being published in July 2013, VP of Barbie’s Global Brand Marketing Lori Pantel told TIME that it came was published in 2010 and that “since that time we have reworked our Barbie books.”

On Monday, comedian Pamela Ribbon found the book at a friends house and ripped it to shreds on her blog, inspiring major backlash.

So what did the Twitterverse get in a tizzy about? Although the book’s title would indicate that its fights stereotypes against the tech industry’s gender gap, readers only need only get it to the second page to find out that Barbie is completely incompetent. While she’s capable of conceptualizing a game about a cute robot puppy (gender cliche, but we were ready to go with it — who doesn’t like robot puppies?), Barbie needs boys to actually do the computer programing for her. When Skipper asks if she can see the program, “Barbie says, laughing, ‘I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!'” Silly Skipper and your high expectations!

The rest of the book involves Barbie crashing her computer (duh), passing a virus to Skipper (a pillow fight ensues… I mean, really), ignoring her female computer teacher’s advice on how to fix the virus (because if we’ve learned one thing, it’s that ladies should not be trusted with such things), and finally letting brogrammers come to her rescue. While Steve and Brian seem like nice enough guys, they don’t even teach Barbie what to do on her hot pink laptop.

“The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for,” says Pantel. “We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”

In case they were in need of inspiration, people have been tweeting funny rewrites of the text so that it actually empowers women.

Barbie has been derided for a lot of things — her anatomically impossible figure, for example — but her career goals seemed on track if not admirable. She has been to space and business school But success involves more than just dressing the part. If you pair a doll with a hot pink laptop, she better know how to use it.

Maybe we should all just stick to GoldieBlox, a toy that teaches and encourages girls to do engineering themselves.

Read next: Watch Little Kids React to a Realistic-Looking Barbie Alternative

TIME Business

Dismantling Tech’s Sexist Culture Isn’t Easy, But Deleting Uber Sure Is

Uber Technologies Inc. Senior Vice President Of Business Emil Michael Interview
Emil Michael, senior vice president of business for Uber Technologies Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nilofer Merchant is an author and speaker based in Silicon Valley, California.

As history has shown, if we wait for those in power in Silicon Valley to do something, we might wait forever

News Monday of car-service company Uber wanting to launch a smear campaign (to the tune of $1 million) against a female journalist should worry you for obvious reasons. In response, actor and Uber investor Ashton Kutcher tweeted “what is so wrong about digging up dirt against a shady journalist?”

Oh, boy. Or, should I say, boys.

We should all be concerned with what’s going on with Uber—not just for what it says about tech, but for what it means for business and culture as a whole. One truism I’ve learned in the last 20 years of being up-close in the tech industry is that as Silicon Valley Companies Do, so Does the Rest of the Industry. From key ideas to key leaders, what happens here in Silicon Valley spreads fast.

Some people have called this latest news just another “clueless” move by inexperienced and young company executives. But that defies evidence of a pattern at play in tech, business and society overall: that women are threatened and oppressed for having an opinion. And perhaps more to the point, that men and their inaction allow this attitude to propagate. “Boys will be boys.”

Both Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and the executive involved in the latest scandal, Emil Michael, have been publicly shamed into saying “I’m sorry.” But an apology is not the only thing this situation merits. Michael, as of now, still works for Uber. And the company’s recruitment of top political talent implies that it’s more interested in spinning the news, not changing its ways.

This is not an isolated incident in tech. It’s part of a pattern. Take, for example, Gamergate, a controversy that began earlier this fall of online harassment of women in video gaming culture. Social media attacks, particularly those from website forums 4chan and Reddit, were widely condemned for their sexism and misogyny. Just last month, media critic and feminist Anita Sarkeesian became the subject of terrorist threats against her planned lecture at Utah State University, which made international headlines.

And let’s not forget that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said a few weeks ago that it was “good karma” for women to wait for a pay raise, rather than ask, and then suggested some elusive “industry” fix this problem.

Point being, the dynamics in tech are not new, or even unknown. The ‘bro’ culture has just been left unchecked.

Let’s remember, the people “in charge” today could have already made much needed changes. But Uber’s investors and board have chosen to remain silent on the safety of women issue, despite the company’s well-known and widely reported frat-bro culture, as summarized by Elizabeth Plank in Mic:

It’s hard to count all of the ways Uber has degraded, diminished and generally harmed women since its founding in 2009. Whether it’s the CEO openly referring to the company as “Boober,” the company’s chauvinistic ad campaigns, the alleged slut-shaming of female passengers who accused drivers of assault, or the reports that drivers “choked” and even attempted to abduct female passengers, the company has built a reputation for an increasingly problematic and misogynistic management style and culture. And that’s saying something in Silicon Valley.

And, so that begs the question, is this changeable?

Sarah Lacy, the journalist targeted for the smear campaign, wrote, “unless forces more powerful than me in the Valley see this latest horror as a wakeup call and decide this is enough, nothing will change.”

She’s right in one way. But I’m not convinced they need to be more powerful than her. People who share in a common purpose need to join forces with her. Because if we wait for “those in power” in Silicon Valley today to do something, we might wait forever.

Rather than waiting for “those in power” to act, we should start with each of us acting. So, today, you should delete your Uber account and put a dent in their estimated annualized billion-dollar revenue stream. In the social era, connected individuals can now do what once only large centralized organizations could. Yes, you can be as or more powerful as any top tier venture capitalist by banding together with others in this protest.

Mind you, I’m not limiting this action to women. This is not just a gender issue, but one of human values. It’s about the kind of world you want to live in. Uber counts on your desire for convenience to subsidize its untouchable ‘bro’ culture. That’s a big cost for convenience.

It’s going to take using the power available to each of us to act as one. And if Uber does change its ways because of our collective action, we can always return to them.

Nilofer Merchant’s high-tech business experience spans shipping 100 products, resulting in $18B in revenues. An author of two books on collaborative work, her next one is on how to make your ideas powerful enough to dent the world (Viking, 2016).

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME women

I’m a Mommy Blogger and Proud of It

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Tetra Images—Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Lauren Apfel is the debate editor for Brain, Child Magazine.

Writing about motherhood is a backlash against the myth that parenting is something to be done and not discussed or valued

Call a woman a “mommy blogger” and you might as well be slinging mud. The expression, as it is most commonly used, is patronizing at best, derogatory at worst. What’s more is that it manages to offend on dual levels: a seeming contempt for both motherhood and the way mothers write about themselves. And yet, suffice it to say: I am a mommy blogger and proud of it.

Before I became a mommy blogger, I wrote a monograph titled The Advent of Pluralism: Diversity and Conflict in the Age of Sophocles. The book was about the meta-ethical theory of pluralism as it manifested itself in pre-Platonic Greek thought. Now I have a website, where I write about parenting and children—the tragedy of sibling rivalry as much as the comedy of a six year old’s staged wedding. Is this a change in subject matter tantamount to a fall from grace? I imagine many among the literati would consider it so.

The idea that motherhood is a topic worthy of serious reflection is only in its infancy. “Women have mothered since life began,” writes Katherine J. Barrett, the editor of Understorey Magazine, an online publication dedicated to “unspoken” stories about mothering. But “the history of books about motherhood spans roughly 40 years.” Whatever the root cause of this fundamental imbalance—and I suspect it’s closely linked to the general undervaluing of what was once referred to as “women’s work”—times they are a changin’. Today the web is crawling with women trying to make sense of their topsy-turvy lives as parents by encapsulating that process of analysis in some kind of narrative form.

Blogging serves as an emotional and intellectual outlet for mothers, but it is becoming more than that too. Now mommy blogging is a new line of “women’s work.” As is true for many of my fellow bloggers, my original career path careened off its track once I had children. And because my previous existence as an academic—like the lawyers and publicists and educators I know who occupy the mommy blogosphere with me—had natural touching points with the written word, it wasn’t terribly surprising that I turned to the keyboard for something to do, for a way back to myself, when the babies came one after the other and I decided to stay home with them. Nor was it surprising that the creatures who filled my days would also be the ones who filled my pages.

Nobody, of course, objects to writing about motherhood or children in principle. Mommy blogging gets a bad rap in particular because of its origins in a certain sort of confessional writing that can be traced back to the “weblogs” of the early noughties. Lisa Belkin, herself the creator of the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, describes one of these prototypes, dooce.com, as “a daily reality show on a smaller screen.” That is to say: gritty, highly personal and animated by a sense of “the wartier, the better.”

This “bad mother,” “oversharenting” rendition of the mommy blog is one of the most popular, the locus classicus of the genre. It is a trope made famous by Ayelet Waldman in her 2009 book and the fodder for hugely popular websites like Scary Mommy. Here we have women chronicling their mundane parenting “fails,” but also, in a more sublime vein, probing the ambiguity they feel about becoming mothers in the first place. It’s easy to dismiss this type of writing as navel-gazing fluff, the epitome of the first-world problem. But the psychological effect of being able to articulate such feelings in a public space, in an age when parenting is an increasingly isolated and pressured endeavor, is not to be underestimated.

And yet, just because these essays have healing power doesn’t make them especially literary (though some, like Waldman’s, invariably are). That’s fair enough. What skeptics have to realize, however, is that the self-deprecating, bad-mommy blog is only one fish caught by a rather large net. For as it has evolved over the last decade, mommy blogging has moved beyond the merely confessional to blossom into a multi-faceted branch of the online publication industry. “Mommy lit,” as Barrett urges, has indeed grown up. One need only look at the highbrow creative nonfiction at sites such as Brain, Child Magazine or the important advocacy work being done on topics such as special needs and postpartum depression.

Furthermore, parenting writing is no longer its own contained niche. It is stretching its tentacles into other fields, with sophisticated results. Revered humor sites such as McSweeney’s Internet Tendency publish parenting pieces. Prestigious literary magazines such as the Rumpus and cultural magazines such as Aeon do as well. There is rigorous evidence-based analysis of salient childcare questions at Slate’s Double X. Major broadsheets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have their own parenting blogs. And they even publish parenting-themed articles in their regular opinion and style sections.

Do these articles still count as “mommy blogging”? I submit that they do. Because what they all have in common is the belief by the women who penned them that their lives as mothers—their struggles as much as their successes—are worthy of documentation and publication, that they are, in fact, worthy of the craft of writing itself. This is the true legacy of the mommy blog and it is one we should embrace because of the label’s groundbreaking beginnings, not in spite of it.

For what we are doing as mommy bloggers, with our diverse voices and approaches, is a collective exercise in cultural counterpoint. It is a backlash against the myth that parenting is something to be done and not discussed or valued and it is a backlash against the debilitating contemporary notion that there is only one right way to do it. And for those of us who write about motherhood when we could be writing instead about, say, the ancient Greeks, it is a way to use history or philosophy or whatever other tools we have at our disposal to better understand the essence of our shared humanity and, in turn, to better understand ourselves.

Lauren Apfel is a writer and mother of four (including twins). She blogs at omnimom.net and is the debate editor for Brain, Child Magazine. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME indonesia

Female Police Recruits in Indonesia Are Made to Take ‘Virginity Tests’

Incoming Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Indonesian army and police during the rehearsal for the ceremony to greet Joko Widodo as the country's new leader at the presidential palace in Jakarta on Oct 19, 2014 Firman Hidayat—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

"All women who want to become policewomen should keep their virginity,” says the police force's jobs website

Woman applying to join Indonesia’s national police are subjected to “virginity tests” that are described by recipients as “painful and traumatic,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday.

Although senior police authorities insist the practice had been abolished, HRW claims to have interviewed female police officers and applicants in six Indonesian cities who had undergone the “discriminatory and degrading” test — two of them in 2014.

Nisha Varia, associate women’s rights director at HRW, said the practice “humiliates women” and called on police authorities to “immediately and unequivocally abolish the test, and then make certain that all police recruiting stations nationwide stop administering it.”

The practice is administered as part of the recruitment physical examination, two senior policewomen told HRW, and is intended to determine whether female applicants’ hymens are intact.

One 24-year-old recruit described the test as “really upsetting” in an interview with HRW. “I feared that after they performed the test I would not be a virgin anymore,” she said. “It really hurt. My friend even fainted because … it really hurt, really hurt.”

In response to the HRW report, a spokesman of the Indonesian police told local media that “there are no virginity tests in the selection of policewomen.” But he added: “In the selection process, there are comprehensive medical tests for men. In medical tests for men and women, we also conduct examinations of reproductive organs, not virginity tests.”

However, the Indonesian national police’s jobs website still states: “Policewomen must also undergo virginity tests. So all women who want to become policewomen should keep their virginity.”

Only 3% of Indonesia’s 400,000 police officers are women. Married women are not eligible to join the police.

“So-called virginity tests are discriminatory and a form of gender-based violence — not a measure of women’s eligibility for a career in the police,” Varia said. “This pernicious practice not only keeps able women out of the police, but deprives all Indonesians of a police force with the most genuinely qualified officers.”

— With reporting by Yenni Kwok

Read next: ‘Virginity Tests’ Throw Spotlight on Indonesia’s Conflicted Sexual Morality

TIME Companies

GM CEO Won’t Receive Women’s Award Amid Protests

GM CEO Mary Barra Addresses Detroit Economic Club
General Motors Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra address the Detroit Economic Club October 28, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. Barra announced that GM will be investing $540 million in its plants in Michigan. $240 million of that will be invested in the company's Warren Transmission Plant, allowing them to produce the transmissions for the next-generation Chevrolet Volt in Michigan, as opposed to in Mexico. Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

The museum said it was not presenting Mary Barra with the award “at this time”

The National Women’s History Museum has agreed not to bestow an award on General Motors CEO Mary Barra amid objections over the company’s delayed recall of vehicles with a faulty ignition switch.

Barra was slated to receive the museum’s Katharine Graham Living Legacy Award at a ceremony next Monday in Washington, D.C., but GM said late Wednesday that she was no longer going, the Detroit News reports.

The museum said it was not presenting the award “at this time.”

Activists and family members of people hurt or killed in accidents involving the faulty ignitions voiced opposition to the award this week. “We believe that Barra should focus on GM’s remaining safety problems before traveling around the country to accept awards,” Peter Flaherty, the president of the National Legal Policy Center, wrote in a letter to the museum.

The faulty ignition-switch has been linked to 32 deaths and led the automaker to recall 2.59 million vehicles in February.

TIME career

Being Rich Is Not a Priority for Women, Survey Shows

In a global survey, a majority of women did not list wealth as their top goal

When women are asked to imagine success, becoming extremely wealthy is not the first thing that comes into their minds. Instead, across countries and continents, mothers, daughters and wives are more concerned about financial security for their families.

That’s one of the main findings of a survey of women and men ages 21 to 69 in the United States, United Kingdom, China and Brazil. While economic concerns among both sexes continue to decline, most respondents are still worried about just getting by.

Nearly 80% of women said they’d rather have more money than power or sex in their lives, according to the survey, which was backed by public relations firm FleishmanHillard and Hearst media. Yet a deeper dive suggests the drive behind the money is for security as opposed to excelling financially.

The results have dramatic implications on not just women’s ability to accrue wealth, but also on financial planners. Women are expected to earn $18 trillion in the U.S. this year — 50% more than they earned five years ago. On a global level, by 2030, women will control two-thirds of our nation’s wealth. As taking smart risks with their money falls to the wayside in place of more practical bets like planning a family trip or going out to eat, women are less likely to invest their money.

What’s more is that women feel increasingly untrustworthy of financial institutions. Only about a third of women surveyed in the U.S. said they were loyal to one financial services company. That figured dropped to just 16% among women in the U.K. Also, more than half of women in the U.S., U.K. and China reported to be “overwhelmed” by the products and choices available today for financial services.

The cautious and overwhelmed attitude toward financial planners breeds an attitude of self-reliance, says Steve Kraus, senior vice president and chief insights officer Ipsos MediaCT’s audience measurement group, the third-party organization that conducted the report’s research. This leads women to believe that saving their money for a rainy day is better than taking it to a big bad bank.

“It is men who are more likely to say that they want to start spending again, and it is men that are most likely to say that I am going to invest in the coming months,” says Kraus. “There is not a lot of trust in financial brands right now, and we see growing numbers of women feel more self-reliant.”

Eve Ellis, a financial adviser with the Matterhorn Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, says it is too easy to generalize among an entire group of women about their attitudes toward financial planning and investing. Yet she has seen some women, in their desire for financial security, be overly cautious in their investment choices.

“Sadly, investors who are too cautious as they invest in the markets may miss opportunities to achieve the very security they seek,” she said. “The old credo too often stands true: No risk, no gain.”

The report did include a silver lining for financial planners looking to recruit more female clients. More than ever since the end of the Great Recession, women are thinking longterm about their financial strategy. Some 75% of women would opt out of a significant promotion if their child could get into a top college. This gives financial advisors a clue of how to talk to women about their future.

Fidelity is the most-trusted financial services brand among American women, according to the report. Kristen Robinson, senior vice president of women and young investors for personal investing at Fidelity, said women are looking for a holistic approach to investing. Partly to solve the common problem of feeling overwhelmed by investment choices, Robinson said the company is also working to increase its visibility among professional women by hosting more educational workshops.

“Women work very hard to make progress in so many ways. Yet only when they have the ability to control their own financial futures will they realize the full extent of their true power,” Fidelity CEO Abby Johnson and President of Personal Investing Kathy Murphy wrote in the October 6th issue of Fortune.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 12

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “Seven years after returning from Iraq, I’m finally home.” One veteran reflects on how service after his time at war changed his life.

By Chris Miller in Medium

2. Humanity’s gift for imitation and iteration is the secret to our innovation and survival.

By Kat McGowan in Aeon

3. Amid news of a groundbreaking climate agreement, it’s clear the China-U.S. relationship will shape the global future.

By Natalie Nougayrède in the Guardian

4. Lessons a year after Typhoon Haiyan: The pilot social safety net in place before Haiyan struck the Philippines helped the country better protect families after the disaster.

By Mohamad Al-Arief at the World Bank Group Social Protection and Labor Global Practice

5. A handful of simple policy reforms — not requiring new funding — can set the table for breaking the cycle of multigenerational poverty.

By Anne Mosle in the Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME women

Did We Give the Pill Too Much Power?

birth control pills
Getty Images

Elizabeth Weingarten is the associate editor at New America and the associate director of its Global Gender Parity Initiative.

The answer to why we are still struggling with reproductive rights in this country may have to do with our original—and perhaps unrealistic—expectations of how much the pill could change things in the first place

This pill came with a promise: help extinguish sexism from public life by removing a key roadblock for women. If women could plan when and whether they became pregnant, they should be better able to develop careers and livelihoods, avoid a life of economic dependence on men, and form identities outside of motherhood.

In many ways, the birth control pill kept that promise by enabling women to enter the workforce, improving their health by helping them to space out pregnancies, and allowing them to have sex for pleasure. But more than 50 years after the pill first came to market, its promise of access and equality remains unfulfilled for millions of other women.

Think about the Hobby Lobby decision, which ruled that certain businesses can deny employees coverage for contraception on the basis of religious beliefs. The fact that many insurance plans still don’t cover contraception or infertility treatments. “Time passes and yet we’re still kind of stuck when it comes to reproductive rights,” said New York Times Health reporter Catherine Saint Louis at a recent New America NYC event. Cost and culture still prevent millions of low-income women here and abroad from obtaining the pill.

“The things we’re talking about [today] are the same things [Margaret Sanger, one of the pill’s bankrollers and the founder of Planned Parenthood] was talking about in 1914,” said Jonathan Eig, the author of the book, “The Birth of the Pill.” “I honestly believe she thought once the pill got out there, the genie would be out of the bottle, women would have all the power they needed and everything would be fine after that… I really think she’d be stunned.”

So how did we get here?

At least in part, the answer may lie in the scope of our expectations; we have asked a lot of one medical invention. After all, said Eig, the idea that the role of a woman is to be a vessel for a child is rooted in thousands of years of history. This biological difference is the foundation of gender inequality – the thing that for centuries kept them out of economic and professional competition with men, noted New Republic Senior Editor Rebecca Traister.

That’s a powerful dynamic and hard to reverse. The pill turned into a silver bullet, that single technological innovation that would allow us to avoid confronting the deeper, more impactful social structures that sustain gender discrimination. We can’t ask the pill and its users to fix a problem the rest of us choose to ignore.

Here in the U.S., the pill put “all of the onus and responsibility [of pregnancy] on individual women without a sense of accountability of community and government to support whole and healthy lives,” explained Tiloma Jayasinghe, the executive director of the anti-violence against women organization Sakhi for South Asian Women. But “we’re not in this by ourselves.”

It also sidelined men, taking their responsibility out of the equation and separating them from the reality of reproduction, Traister said. “That’s how you get Rush Limbaugh talking about, ‘how much sex are these women having that they have to pay this amount per pill?’ What it has done is further made reproduction ‘women’s territory’ in certain ways.”

“It was a double-edged sword,” said Eig.

Even when companies clumsily try to give agency to women, it illustrates how much society has put women in an untenable situation. Facebook and Apple announced recently that they would begin offering egg freezing as part of their healthcare benefit plans. Critics accused the tech companies of putting pressure on women to sacrifice life for work, and decried the use of egg freezing as dangerous. But that criticism is misguided, argued Traister. Rather than blame Facebook and Apple, why not fault a “system that repeatedly puts new possibilities on offer and keeps them from people who need them”? Everyone, not just tech companies, should offer these types of benefits because they’re part of women’s health, she said.

Improving women’s health is a major benefit of the pill. Before the pill, birth control was inefficient, inaccessible, and often completely controlled by men. Consequently, women were having more children than they wanted – often faster than their bodies could handle them. In many cases, this led to maternal and infant death, or economic instability and famine.

That’s still the case overseas, where Silver Bullet laziness may also be a factor. Though the pill has led to many health benefits, including a reduction in infant and maternal deaths around the world, its effects have been uneven and limited in certain developing countries. “The WHO and other organizations are promoting the use of the pill to space pregnancies, and yet they are doing so in countries where women don’t always have control of their bodies or access to the pill,” Jayasinghe said. She suggested that the pill’s success may lead to complacency in those regions: “We have it now, our work is done. But it’s not done.”

So how do we change the system here and abroad?

For many countries, harnessing the power of the pill will require a major culture shift. It needs to become okay for mothers to talk to daughters and fathers to talk to sons about contraception, which won’t be an easy fix, Jayasinghe said. (And critically, contraception is much more than just the pill. There are other forms of more reliable contraception – like IUD and hormonal implants – that in some cases are even preferred by women, but may be pricier or harder to access).

Here in the U.S., “we need to broaden our discussions to beyond fighting about abortion to a fuller scope of what do rights mean – the full scope of contraception,” Jayasinghe said. Abortion is just one issue in a women’s life – and making it a nitpicky focal point of reproductive conversations is limiting, she suggested. Ideally, legislators would introduce – and pass – some kind of comprehensive women’s reproductive rights and healthcare bill. That also means recognizing infertility as a real health problem, Saint Louis noted. Right now – in many circles – it’s an “I’m so sorry you waited until you were 35 [to have kids] problem, rather than recognizing that it affects 19-year-olds.”

It’s also critical to include men in conversations – both personal and public – around reproductive issues. Research shows that when men and women are required to take sexual education classes together, for example, birth rates drop dramatically, Eig pointed out. And after all, the scientific mastermind behind the pill was a man – Gregory (Goody) Pincus.

“There’s still a long way to go,” Eig said. “If there were more people like Goody [Pincus] fighting today, we’d see more innovation and more attention still being brought to this cause.”

This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

U.N. Panel Claims China Tried to Silence Women’s Rights Activists

Some claimed to have been censored by "state agents"

A United Nations committee on women’s rights accused China on Friday of aiming to silence activists who were scheduled to testify about the government’s human rights record at a conference in Geneva.

Some activists claimed to have been censored by “state agents,” according to Reuters, and at least one wasn’t able to travel to Switzerland based on “travel restrictions.”

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women asked that China “take steps to ensure that in the future no travel restrictions are placed on individuals/human rights defenders,” and also to fight other practices like forced abortions and “infanticide of girls.”

Read more at Reuters

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