What an incredible journey this has been! When I began as First Lady of California, I had a vision of what The Women’s Conference could be, but I had no idea what it would eventually become. Together we have expanded into a global network and watched our community grow over the years into the nation’s premier forum for women. Over one million of us have gathered together at our amazing live events and here online to help one another become Architects of Change in our own lives, in our communities and in our world.
Like so many of you experiencing transition and reinvention in your own lives, it’s time for me to start a whole new chapter. As I move forward, I’ll do so as a wiser woman because of the many lessons I’ve learned over the last seven years. I know that l must continue to use my voice the way I believe it was meant to be used: to help empower women, to help families who struggle to balance responsibilities of work, children, and aging parents, and to connect people with one another. I want to make the world a more compassionate place, a place where people feel seen, valued and connected.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we’ve all experienced, accomplished and shared over the last years. Join me in taking a look back.
I want to thank all of you for your commitment, wisdom and support. I hope you continue to visit this wonderful site - rich with blogs, videos, special features on topics that shape our lives, and seven years of amazing conference speakers, sessions and behind-the-scenes video & photos.
And there's much more to come. I invite all of you in The Women’s Conference community to stay connected as I embark on my next chapter. Visit www.mariashriver.com and sign up for my newsletter to find out what’s next. It’s going to be yet another incredible journey!
I am a child of Alzheimer’s.
My father, Sargent Shriver, was the smartest person I ever knew. He was sharp and witty, a walking encyclopedia—his mind a beautifully tuned instrument that left people in awe and inspired. That was then. Today he doesn’t know I’m his daughter, and he doesn’t even know my name.
Every minute or so—in fact, before you get to the end of this page—someone in this country will develop Alzheimer’s. It’s an epidemic and a mind-blowing disease—not just for the people who get it, but for everyone around them. No matter who you are, how old you are, what you’ve accomplished, what your financial situation is—when you’re dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you feel powerless.
A year ago, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything explored the transformational moment in our nation’s history when women become the majority of the workforce—and the primary or co-breadwinners in almost two-thirds of American families.
Now, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, the second landmark study -- The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s -- finds that women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s epidemic. We make up 65 percent of the people with Alzheimer’s— and up to three-fifths of all Alzheimer caregivers. That’s 3.3 million American women with Alzheimer’s and another 6.7 million women providing care for a friend or loved one. Consider that by mid-century as many as 8 million women will have the disease. We are in the midst of a national emergency, and we’re woefully unprepared.
What we need is a new kind of national conversation about Alzheimer’s and growing old in America—just like the conversations heard around kitchen tables all over the country. My hope is that this Shriver Report triggers that conversation -- focused on this disease and its ramifications. It’s time. We must face up to some big questions: With Americans living longer and with the incidence of Alzheimer’s growing, what’s going to happen to our women, our families, our workplaces, our attitudes, our society, as the Alzheimer wave hits over the next few decades? We’re talking crisis.
My hope is also that as the veil is lifted, as information and funds and support programs are made available, families will see that they’re not alone. As more people, like the ones you’ll meet in The Shriver Report, speak out and share their personal journeys with Alzheimer’s, more families will see that there’s nothing to be ashamed of—that there’s hope out there because, together, we are finally making Alzheimer’s a national issue.
The truth is that we simply must put Alzheimer’s on the front burner because if we don’t, Alzheimer’s will not just devour our memories, it will also break our women, cripple our families, devastate our healthcare system and decimate the legacy of our generation. But if we do, I’m convinced that this Woman’s Nation will be able to say that, believe it or not, there once was a time when there was no cure for Alzheimer’s.
If you want to help defeat this mind-blowing disease, I invite you to join me and thousands of people on Sunday, October 24 for my March on Alzheimer’s to kick off The Women’s Conference 2010 in Long Beach. If you can’t attend, please consider making a donation. The march will benefit the Alzheimer's Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. You can learn more about the event and sign up or donate here.
Please join us. We are the hope.
You can read the full report at The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s at http://www.shriverreport.com/.
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.