Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda Gates attends the AOL BUILD Speaker Series at AOL Studios In New York on March 10, 2015 in New York City.
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By Melinda Gates
March 17, 2016
IDEAS
Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, founder of Pivotal Ventures, and best-selling author of The Moment of Lift.

One of the most outspoken advocates I know for women and girls is actually a man. As co-founder of the ONE Campaign, my friend Bono spends a lot of time speaking out against global poverty. Together, we’re working to get out a simple, powerful message: poverty is sexist.

Women and girls are more likely to be impoverished, less likely to get an education and more likely to suffer bad health. And when they’re born into poverty, it’s much more difficult for them to lift themselves and their families out of it.

Why? One reason is that breaking out of poverty takes time–and that’s a resource women around the world are short on. On average, women spend about twice as much time as men doing the unpaid work that makes life possible for everyone, like cooking, cleaning and caring. In developing countries, the gap is even bigger. As a result, women have no time to finish their education, learn new skills, open a business or even go to the doctor. They dream of creating a better future for their children, but they can’t spare the hours to put those dreams into action.

The fact that the potential of so many women is going unrealized is a tragedy–but it’s also an opportunity. We need to recognize, reduce and redistribute the burden of work that’s holding them back. Because if women had time to invest in themselves and their ideas, they could transform the world.

Gates is a businesswoman, philanthropist and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Contact us at editors@time.com.

This appears in the March 28, 2016 issue of TIME.

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