Roya — A vision for fairness and understanding

This, right now, is our moment. It is the moment.

Look at the sweeping history of humanity, and you may see what I do: a series of stumbles and falls, a tragic saga of all the ways we’ve managed to get things wrong. But you may also see this: a story of hope and potential. A story of a species that is, on a grand scale, trying to do better and become better.

Consider this. We’ve gone from lighting the first fires to building the first lightbulb to harnessing the sun. We invented the wheel and then, as the wheels of history turned, found ourselves aiming for more: we leapt from stagecoach to car, airplane to space station. Today we zip across continents as we snooze above the clouds. Tomorrow, perhaps, we’ll cross galaxies. 

We’re always pushing the boundaries of our potential, reimagining what’s possible. That’s always been who we are. And that’s what I love about the human spirit.

It’s our brain, in all of its brilliance as well as its biases, that has brought us here to this point. We’re here because of our ability to think, explore, reason, create, imagine, act, and make things happen.

This brain of ours is like a powerful computer capable of infinite possibilities, calculations, and creations—but it can get glitchy. That’s because there are bugs in the system: biases that lead us astray, stereotypes that divide us, a loyalty to “the way things have always been” at the expense of how things could be.

Which brings us to this moment, right now. 

I have a vision, a roya. This roya is that we can create a more fair and just society simply by taking the time to better understand our world and the people in it, from multiple perspectives. It’s a vision I want to see come alive not just in how we treat one another, but in how we weave it into the fabric of our societies.

Right now the world faces massive challenges, unleashed on a global scale. We’re going to need everyone’s talent and energy if we plan on solving them.

So how can we, as men and women, come together to create the optimal path forward for our societies? Right now we’re grappling with insidious biases, stereotypes, and outdated notions that not only divide us, but debilitate us as societies. 

Essentially we’re only running on half power: half of our talent, half of our potential. Worse, we’re squandering the available energy we do have on that age-old, unwinnable tug-of-war: “us against them,” men versus women, nations and races and classes squaring off instead of standing together.

Here’s what we could be doing instead. We could be using our differences to our advantage, bringing our many perspectives and talents together to create unique solutions, and ultimately building a future we can all be proud of. We could be listening to one another.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in the past 35 years is that people are more willing to come together, share ideas, and solve challenging problems together if they can understand one another’s perspective. But if we’re barely hearing each other, we’re barely scraping the surface of what’s possible.

I believe that we can come together and act as one society to address the darker sides of our humanity: those that create inequality, unfairness, and divide. I’ve observed how this darkness obscures our potential, and especially how it plays out between men and women. The reality is that we’re missing countless opportunities to do great things together.

For example, as I write this one of the world’s most powerful economies, China, still allows employers to ask women about their marital status and childbearing plans during the job application process. Job descriptions will often specify ‘men only’ or ‘men preferred.’

Now China has established a no sexual discrimination law to protect women at work. Of course that’s progress, but it shouldn’t have taken until 2019 to conclude that to become the largest economy in the world, China needed the energy and talent of its ~700 million women. You just can’t achieve that if you’re systematically clipping the wings of half your population.

Of course, this is a larger conversation happening all over the world, as well as right in my own backyard in Silicon Valley. It’s one of the reasons the #MeToo movement has gained so much momentum. Yet while there are some glimmers of change, we still have a long way to go. For instance, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, no country gets it totally right when it comes to women’s workplace equality. Australia comes closest, with a score of 94.9 out of 100 and Yemen comes in dead last with a score of 24.2 out of 100. In fact, not a single country is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030.

And so here is our opportunity: we can change this. We can do better and be better. But not if the scales are tipped so dramatically in favor of one group over another.

We must want to understand each other. That means listening, supporting each other, stepping up for one another, and speaking out when things aren’t right. It also means questioning enshrined gender stereotypes and shirking off roles that, in some cases, have haunted us for centuries. It means rebalancing what has been unbalanced for too long.

It’s time to take the same leap that brought us out from the caves and out into the cosmos. From the time we lit our first fires to today, as our satellites light up the night sky, we’ve used our intelligence and our capacity to imagine a different future in order to propel humanity forward. 

It’s what we’ve always been meant to do.

This is our roya. And this is our moment.

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