Maria Shriver has used her voice to advocate on behalf of women, the working poor, the intellectually disabled, and families struggling with Alzheimer’s. She has created groundbreaking programs and initiatives that educate, enlist, empower, connect, and honor people who are what she calls “Architects of Change.” But when I asked her during her recent Women’s Conference in Long Beach what she would like her legacy to be, her answer was even more inspiring: “For my children to come out ok.”
Her words got me thinking. As a working mother of two, I’m always worried about my next project, getting that interview. But at the end of the day, what really matters is my family, my children. What would I like to pass on to them?
Shriver has four children with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: Katherine, Christina, Patrick, and Christopher. All except Christopher, (who’s only 12), have started their own businesses with one thing in mind: giving back.
Katherine, who I also had the opportunity to talk with, recently wrote a book to help inspire young women and tackle the body image issues they experience. Growing up with famous parents in the heart of Hollywood, the 20-year-old is no stranger to image-based pressure. “I want girls to read this and feel it’s okay to be themselves, and to understand that every girl can be beautiful no matter what size and shape she is. You don’t have to look like you’re on a billboard to feel beautiful,” says Katherine. According to her, author of Rock What You’ve Got: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty from Someone Who’s Been There and Back, only two percent of women in the world consider themselves beautiful. “We are so critical of ourselves,” she points out. “We look in the mirror and we focus only on the things that we hate about our bodies.”
In 2009, the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism college student decided to raise awareness on maternal mortality and created Vida bags, the profits of which go towards CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc.) and The White Ribbon Alliance.
Shriver’s work as an entrepreneur and leader has no doubt had a positive impact on her children. “My mom always told us to give back,” says 17-year-old Patrick, cofounder of Project360, a modern apparel company that donates a portion of its proceeds to worthy charities.
According to Shriver, being true to herself helped her through the transformation from news correspondent to First Lady of California in 2003. So I asked her, “What is the key to success for any woman?”
“There’s no particular formula. The important thing is that you follow your own path because you like it, not because someone else is doing it,” says Shiver.
Under the leadership of Shriver and its board of directors, The Women’s Conference 2010 surpassed $1 million through its nationwide WE Invest Program, which benefits women entrepreneurs in the United States. TANIA LUVIANO