Friday, May 20, 2011

Maria Shriver

Hello, Awesome Women members… I am pleased and honored to offer my first submission to this outstanding group which I’ve admired from afar for some time. I’m acting on a hunch to, “strike while the iron is HOT”, and present… MARIA SHRIVER! Think you know everything there is to know about the former celebrity First Lady of California and exhausted from the current malestream media bombardment? Think again. My objective in choosing this fabulous feminist is to show us all that as real, three-dimensional human beings, and as such, we refuse to be defined archetypically in the press as the scorned spouse or exclusively through our relationships with men.

Toward this end, my entry focuses exclusively on one of the most informative and significant professional contributions Maria Owings Shriver (born November 6, 1955) has made independently from her formal role as the governor’s wife and in collaboration with other progressives. Recently, Shriver took a groundbreaking and original historical look at the transformation of the American woman. In October 2009, Shriver launched "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything," a national study and comprehensive report conducted in partnership with the Center for American Progress, USC's Annenberg Center on Communication, Leadership and Policy, and the Rockefeller Foundation. The Shriver Report revealed that American women, for the first time, make up half of the United States workforce and studied how that fact is impacting major institutions like family, business, government and faith organizations. The report was released last year in partnership with Time and NBC News. It was the first study of its kind since her uncle, President John F. Kennedy, asked Eleanor Roosevelt to chair the first Commission on the Status of Women in 1961. That report was published within months of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, the opening salvo of the second-wave Women’s Lib movement. All of a sudden, so many women became activists, taking to the streets and the halls of power. Many of these women risked their reputations, their security, their jobs—sometimes even their lives and marriages—to knock down walls of inequality. They got many outdated work laws changed and new anti-discrimination laws put in place. Their work and their courage created opportunity for many women, enabling more women to go to college and professional schools, more women to play sports, more women to get on career tracks. Today we stand on their shoulders. Their work freed so many of us to dream new dreams and fulfill them.

Yet, feminism has not yet fulfilled all its goals. Fast-forward to today. From Maria Shriver’s introduction & the new report’s key findings: “Women still don’t make as much as men do for the same jobs. Women still don’t make it to the top as often as men. Families too often can’t get flex-time, child care, medical leave, or paid family leave. The United States still is the only major industrialized nation without comprehensive child care and family leave policies. Insurance companies still often charge women more than men for the exact same coverage. Women are still being punished by a tax code designed when men were the sole breadwinners and women the sole caregivers. Sexual violence against women remains a huge issue. Women still are disproportionately affected by lack of health care services. And lesbian couples and older women are among the poorest segment of our society,” in my analysis, exacerbating an institutionally and ideologically-supported feminization of poverty.

The report’s main resulting policy recommendations are that families need more flexible work schedules, comprehensive child care policies, redesigned family and medical leave, and equal pay. This will be a difficult agenda to accomplish in a political and cultural climate that seems to be waging a war on women and workers.

For more great stuff than I could possibly incorporate here, I encourage you to check out the entire website which includes interesting and diverse chapters by powerful pundits and the voices of everyday Americans, like ourselves. Among the selections, there are essays on women’s sports, women’s health by tennis great Billie Jean King, Suze Orman on Money Matters and even an epilogue authored by Oprah Winfrey.

The Shriver Report

A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything

By Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress,

Not just an academic exercise, one of the most promising forms of activism to be generated by Shriver’s report is in 2008, Shriver launched her WE Invest Program, which provides training, mentoring, support networks, microloans and other resources to help women launch or grow their businesses. A microloan is a small loan of money, sometimes as little as $25 or as much as $5,000, that enables a microenterprise or impoverished person to continue or start a business. In June 2009, she expanded WE Invest nationally through a partnership with Kiva, creating the first-ever online peer-to-peer microlending program in the U.S. Shriver is credited with coming up with the idea to bring Kiva's international micro-lending model to the United States domestically to support low-income entrepreneurs like women and minorities in the United States. Following the recession, the organization realized the opportunity and need to provide community driven, low-cost capital for the everyday small business owner in the U.S. Micro-loans Kiva's concept is simple — so simple it seems unlikely. Small-business entrepreneurs who need money are listed on Kiva's site. Individuals who want to lend money choose who'd they like to help. And over time, the lenders get paid back and can lend their money again. Kiva has a 98% repayment rate!

So, in conclusion, I hope you enjoyed and are inspired by this refreshing look at a woman’s life that goes beyond the sensationalized and scandalous headlines to reveal that each one of us can, “be the change we want to see in the world”. Thank you and I look forward to hearing your feedback.

AWU post & comments at