I have long been a fan of Maria Shriver. She is a strong woman who uses her voice to implement change and do good. She authored one of my favorite books – “Just Who Will You Be.” It is a small book with a big message. In it, she offers up a very candid look into some of her own struggles with her identity and purpose in life. She then shares a poem that she read at her godson’s college graduation. The crux of the book is “It is not what you do in your life that matters, it’s who you are”. The book is ideal for high school and college kids, but really appeals to anyone looking for a life of meaning (which I hope is everybody!). This book was my Holiday present to absolutely everyone of my family and friends a few years back.
In 2004, Shriver became First Lady of California and took over what, at the time, was a small conference called The Women’s Conference. She has since turned into the largest one-day conference for women in the nation. As such, TWC attracts high-profile speakers – world opinion leaders, entrepreneurs, visionaries, tastemakers, spiritual figures, authors, journalists, artists, and, yes, THE OPRAH WINFREY. It is an event in which women from all walks of life to share perspectives, find common ground, and undergo transformative experiences. If you are not familiar with this conference, you must spend some time at www.womensconference.org. This year’s speakers included Jane Fonda, Deepak Chopra, Carol Bartz, and Michelle Obama, among a long list of others. You can check out the First Lady’s emotional speech here: http://www.womensconference.org/michelle-obama/.
One of my favorite aspects of TWC is its emphasis on entrepreneurship and women in business. I believe it is very important for successful women to share their knowledge and experiences with other women through networking and support groups. I am also a strong proponent of investing time, through volunteer work and mentoring, to teach young women entrepreneurship, as it empowers them to achieve their dreams and take control of their destinies. Check out Ladies Who Launch and SMARTYpeople for the former and Girls Leadership Institute, Girls, Inc., and Girls CEO for the latter. The following is a Women’s Conference compilation of “How I did it” stories from successful female entrepreneurs – http://www.womensconference.org/how-i-did-it . Make sure to read the amazing story of the first female space explorer ANOUSHEH ANSARI, Co-founder of Prodea Systems. Some of the tips that most resonate with me and the advice I often give to young entrepreneurs are:
Believe in yourself and in your success
Be humble enough to seek guidance from others
Pay attention to your team and their needs
The last gem I will share about Maria Shriver and her legacy of empowering women is her 10 Ways Women Can Be an Architect of Change. I am sharing it with every woman I know and I hope you do the same. My favorite Ghandi quote is “each of us must be the change we want to see.” Read this list, get inspired, become empowered, take action, and impact change.
1. Find your own unique voice and listen to what it’s saying.
2. Empower a young woman. Become a mentor by connecting with a young woman in your workplace, neighborhood or place of worship. Find small ways to reach out, listen and support her.
3. Act locally to make a difference globally. Make informed choices about what you buy and consume, as well as how you dispose of items. Reduce your carbon footprint, use energy and water responsibly and green your life.
4. Advocate for a cause that you care deeply about. Your time and expertise could help make a difference as a volunteer, counselor or board member.
5. Invest in women entrepreneurs. Join Team Maria in the WE Invest/Kiva partnership to give women the tools to start or expand their own businesses. For as little as $25, you can “Become a lender. Change a life.”
6. Speak up & ask for what you need. If you need to take time off of your job to care for a child or parent, ask for it. Families need more flexible work schedules, better child care policies and changes in family and medical leave. We need to use our voices collectively to improve workplace policies.
7. Engage your children in the world. As a mother, get your children involved at a young age in seeing the world through the eyes of others, respecting diversity, developing empathy and understanding the gift of giving back.
8. Donate to nonprofits that help women. Instead of purchasing a birthday, anniversary or holiday gift for family, friends and colleagues, make a donation in someone’s name to a nonprofit that works on improving the lives of women and girls.
9. Be an informed citizen. Educate yourself about the world you live in, share your knowledge, educate others and ignite a conversation.
10. Invite 10 of your friends to join The Women’s Conference online community at WWW.WOMENSCONFERENCE.ORG — The Home for Architects of Change.