A Transformational Moment in Our History
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10/15/09 | Maria Shriver | 9 Comments

Maria Shriver, First Lady of California

When last year’s Women’s Conference sold out in just a couple of hours, it hit me that something profound was going on with women. We’d program a workshop on caring for aging parents, and it was standing-room-only. We’d bring in speakers to talk about how to start up a business, and the rooms were packed. We couldn’t book enough sessions on empowerment, activism, and spirituality. All of them were filled, and people were asking for more. I wondered what was going on.

We decided we needed to learn some new, hard facts about today’s American woman. Who is she? How does she live? What does she think? What does she earn? What are her politics? How does she define power? How does she define success? What does she think of marriage? What does she really think of men? How does she want to live her life moving forward?

The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything breaks new ground by taking a hard look at how women’s changing roles are also affecting our major societal institutions: our government, businesses, religious and faith institutions, educational system, the media, and even men and marriage. And we examine how all these parts of the culture have responded to one of the greatest social transformations of our time. We look at where we are and where we should go from here.

For the first time in our nation’s history, fully half of the American work force is female—and mothers have become the primary breadwinners in nearly half of American families. That’s a sea change from 40 years ago. With more and more men forced to stay home due to unemployment, more and more women are bringing home the bacon. Women are more likely than ever to head their own families. They’re doing it all—and many of them have to do it all.  As you’ll read in this report, women have now taken their place as a powerhouse driving the economy.

As we move into this phase we’re calling A Woman’s Nation, women can turn their pivotal role as wage-earners, as consumers, as bosses, as opinion-shapers, as co-equal partners in whatever we do into a potent force for change. Emergent economic power gives women a new seat at the table—at the head of the table.

It’s a transformational moment in our history—much as the opening of the West, industrialization, the great 1960s civil rights campaigns, and the flowering of the Internet age have all irrevocably altered the fabric of American life. With working women now the New Normal, striving and succeeding in areas where they never have before, so many assumptions and underpinnings of our society are cracking open. The rumbling is shaking the ground in every corner of the culture, and many women and men are struggling to get their footing. The effect on every sector of our society will be deep, wide, and profound.

In 2009, women have more choices than they did 40 years ago. We’ve learned that while there’s much to cheer about, we still have a long way to go.  Women’s expanding role in families, industry, the arts, government, politics, and other institutions is altering the American landscape. Women are learning they no longer have to shoehorn themselves into one stereotype or another, but they can do so if they choose—or they can make it up as they go along.

It’s in this new world that I’m raising four children. I’m trying to teach my boys to understand that the women in their lives will work and will have independent minds. I’m trying to teach them not just how to hold the door open, but how to do their own laundry and make their own mac and cheese. I’m also trying to teach my girls how to advocate for themselves, be smart about their finances—and to look not for a savior, but a loving, supportive, open-minded partner.

We hope this report will help inform us all about this transformational time and ignite a national conversation about how our institutions need to adapt to the unfolding of A Woman’s Nation.

Here at The Women’s Conference website, we’ve invited influential writers, journalists, opinion leaders, educators and business leaders – men and women – to be part of that conversation. Pull up a chair at Our Kitchen Table to check out what they have to say. Visit The XX Effect: Generation to Generation to learn how women across the generations answer the question, "What Do Women Want?"

The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything is a study by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress.

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  • I believe we are the faith of our future. We have the righ to threat as a queen.

    Posted by mjich, 15 March 2010.

  • I’m lucky to be married to a man who has always given me a wide berth to pursue my goals. Now that I'm a sixty-something Boomer I can see that we were ahead of our time. We were negotiating much of the issues that are being discussed in A Woman's Nation. Over time, we were ushering in a new era of mutual sacrifice, love and respect to establish and maintain what I call a strong woman/gentle man relationship.

    Whether she's married, single, divorced or widowed, I've also come to recognize a man's influence on a woman's development, exploring what's essentially the anatomy of a "man made woman". In my research I've seen parallels in the people I've polled and I intend to write about my observations in "My Husband Made Outta Me and I Resent It".

    Posted by mcecileforte, 27 October 2009.

  • I am thrilled you, as First Lady, authored "A Woman's Nation" and that this year's conference is willing to address the issue of pay inequity, a topic that became near and dear to my heart when I served as First Vice Chair of the California Commission for Women. I am as thrilled to learn of your and the Governor's support for health reform! For "women have come a long way since 1915" - a time when the AMA had just begun to admit women to their ranks (because women had the courage and tenacity to form their own American Medical Women's Association) as part of the fight for women's equality (women's suffrage). Let's salute the Health-Oriented "Rosie the Riveters" of 2009 - the women health administrators, physicians, clinicians, health educators, etc, who will transcend "Insurance for All" to advance the reality of "Health for All." After all, women are now 50% of the workforce! And women doctors, clinicians, health educators and consumers have the ability to create and sustain health (and not just the delivery of health care) to America's 300 Million (and not just 250 Million) insured!

    Posted by Elena Ong, 26 October 2009.

  • well, Maria, I believe, I have Discovered Women's Equality,.... I believe if you make one Senator female and make the U.S. Senate to become 50% Female, then women of America can enjoy true Emancipation,... then we could also make juries 50% female, state senates,.. etc,...

    Posted by Joe_Miechowicz, 26 October 2009.

  • Try being a single-FATHER, raising his child for the past five years that is now twelve, and tell me there is no reverse discrimination of this topic. Male or female it is the next thing to impossible raising children with one income. In my perspective I have the additional prejudice against me because many people harbor the thought that I should just find a female to "raise" my children so I can be free to work.
    I currently have a BA in Media Studies with a minor in business administration ( I call that my lower case mba), and a masters in professional studies/community service administration. However, hs this done anything to help me locate credible employment? Not at all! I currently wash tables and toilets at a Panera Bread cafe, live in section 8 housing, and depend on food stamps to extend out meager subsistence.
    I am not criticizing the difficult life that woman have had, or have. However, I am the other side of this equation and it looks and feels very much the same.
    All I can say is stay is stay positive and KEEP IT LIT!!

    Posted by dave semans, 21 October 2009.

  • Every generation, a few brave women have bucked the status quo and changed the course of history. From Susan B. Anthony to Gloria Steinem to Maria Shriver...and there is one thing these women have in common--the ability to bring the conversation to the larger stage.
    Thanks to the Shriver Report, we now have our "Tipping Point" for a new movement...a movement towards common sense that focuses on family and community, simple pleasures and simplified living, and balance and equality in all our areas of our lives.
    The question is--can we do it? Can we envision a future where we are not constantly stressed out, overworked or overwhelmed? We can and we must.

    Posted by Astrid Sheil, PhD, 20 October 2009.

  • Matt Lauer's question on "Today" about not understanding why women with the opportunity to work outside the home still feel isolated and disconnected shows why people (read men) still don't get it.

    It also illustrated whyThe Shriver Report is so needed to bring the discussion of women being stretched at all ends to the forefront of recognition, support and changing attitudes.

    I am thrilled you are the woman leading this charge because it's making people sit up and listen. The dialogue, discussions, debates and buzz A Women's Nation Changes Everything is provoking is long overdue. Let the change begin. Starting with my husband not giving me the hairy eyeball if there are dishes in the sink after my long day of being stretched at all ends.

    Posted by Kellimwheeler, 19 October 2009.

  • I watched The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything on Meet the Press Sunday morning and was very impressed. I am glad women are finally gaining their rightful power in the U.S. We deserve this power and worked hard to overcome drastic obstacles that past generations have put us through.

    I am studying for my M.Ed. degree. This program will help me throughout my classes with showing me what "adult" women are learning about themselves, workforce, and life.

    Posted by Julierose, 19 October 2009.

  • I agree. This is the topic of our time. As a full time working mother of two, I believe that society has a long way to catch up with the reality of how life flows for not just women but their families and men as well. It's no longer "normal" for the wife to stay home and raise the kids while hubby goes off it work -- it's a luxury for most like me in the middle class range. It's a constant torment having to adhere to the 9-5 model while my kids are left in aftercare -- and I'm fortunate to have my kids in safe, stimulating environments after school. But still. Flex time needs to become an imperative. And the 2 week vacation model is a bunch of bull. With 3 week winter holidays and 102 days of summer, how much "quality time" do most working women get with their kids during the beauty of their youth? And I'm a lucky one. I have a job today, so does my husband. We're still able to pay our mortgage. But if there is one thing that the past year has shown us, none of this can be taken as a given any more. Without my community of mommy friends, there's no way we'd be able to cover the bases. And even with that, it's overwhelming. Overwhelming.

    Posted by Gracelives, 15 October 2009.