Randy Pench / rpench@sacbee.com

Shriver Report editor Karen Skelton, left, former California first lady Maria Shriver, center, and moderator Karen Breslau discuss Shriver’s new report on women in poverty Thursday in Sacramento.

Maria Shriver returns to Sacramento to discuss women and poverty

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 - 6:13 am

After more than three years away, former first lady of California Maria Shriver returned to Sacramento on Thursday to deliver a new report on women and poverty to the governor and legislators.

Released earlier this month, “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink” explores the state of modern American poverty, which looks a lot like “the face of a working woman,” Shriver said during the 45-minute conversation at the California Museum, part of Dewey Square Group’s quarterly “She Shares” speaker series.

She emphasized that women’s empowerment efforts must broaden from the “1 percent” and “talking about getting the corner office” to include the one-third of American women living in financial insecurity.

“They are looking for some help to give their family a life that’s better than theirs,” she said

Calling on the government to get creative in how it helps working women who lack easy access to social services, Shriver said her advocacy is largely influenced by her late father, Sargent Shriver, who headed the War on Poverty in the 1960s. Shriver affectionately referred to him as “Daddy” as she spoke about initiatives like Head Start and low-income legal services.

When they’re funded, she said, “Those programs work.”

The discussion was moderated by Karen Breslau of the Dewey Square Group and also included Karen Skelton, the report’s editor-in-chief, and Binita Pradhan, a woman featured in the report who shared her experience of leaving an abusive marriage and launching a Nepalese restaurant through a startup incubator. It was attended by dozens of the capital’s most powerful women, including Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento.

“It’s smart policy to invest in women,” Shriver said. “What’s good for women is good for their children, good for their partners, good for the bottom line and good for the country.”

But even as she reflected on raising a family, Shriver conspicuously avoided mentioning estranged husband Arnold Schwarzenegger. His name came up only once, when Shriver urged more bipartisan cooperation in the state and federal governments.

Having grown up a Kennedy, she joked, “I think the first Republican I met was Arnold.”

Still Shriver gushed about her first visit back to the capital since Schwarzenegger left the governor’s office in 2011. “I left a part of my heart in Sacramento,” she said. “It’s very emotional and very fun” to be back.

With veteran Rep. Henry Waxman announcing his retirement earlier in the day, buzz also surrounded whether Shriver, a resident of his Los Angeles district, might enter the family business and run for his seat.

“No. Nope,” she told The Sacramento Bee after event.

Call Alexei Koseff, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-5236.

Read more articles by Alexei Koseff

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