Born into the public eye, Maria Shriver forged a path of her own as a network journalist, author, and in an unforeseen turn, First Lady of California. Shriver grew up outside of Washington, D.C., the daughter of Sargent Shriver, Director of the Peace Corps, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics and sister of President John F. Kennedy. Eunice encouraged Shriver to play football and baseball with her four brothers, preparing her to succeed in what she deemed a “man’s world.”
During her father’s 1972 Vice Presidential candidacy on the McGovern-Shriver ticket, Shriver rode in the back of the plane with the journalists. It was there she discovered love of journalism. Despite being “raised to be in the front of the plane” with the politicians, Shriver decided she preferred the back of the plane with the press, informing the public about issues instead of being the news herself.
Shriver’s upbringing prepared her to enter a news industry still dominated by men, and fight for not only equal pay, but for her share of hard news stories. After graduating from Georgetown University, she began her career as a news writer and producer for Philadelphia’s KYW-TV. In 1978, she started working for Baltimore’s WJZ-TV (where she met long-time friend and colleague, Oprah Winfrey). By 1983, Shriver began reporting for CBS News and eventually landed a co-anchor spot on CBS Morning News.
When CBS Morning News was cancelled, Shriver worked her way up again at NBC, ultimately feeling the pressure to leave her network anchor jobs to take care of her children. During that time, she worked with then NBC President, Michael Gartner, on flexible solutions to continue work while being a mother. Together they crafted a series of specials including First Person with Maria Shriver, Cutting Edge with Maria Shriver, and Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, and a longtime contributor to Dateline.
Despite her hesitations about public office, when her then husband wanted to run for Governor of California, Shriver supported the campaign with the intention of continuing her job at NBC afterward the election. When Arnold Schwarzenegger won the election, NBC, fearing a conflict of interest with her new role as First Lady, requested she take a leave of absence.
She revamped the Governor’s Conference for Women into the Governor and First Lady’s Conference for Women, transforming it into one of the leading women’s conferences in the world, attracting more than 30,000 attendees in 2010; created The Minerva Awards to honor women for their remarkable legacies of service; and spearheaded the landmark Shriver Reports.
Partnering with the Center for America Progress, in 2009, Shriver published the first wide-ranging study on the status of the American woman since 1961. She followed it up the next year with a report on Alzheimer’s as a women’s issue, and is now investigating poverty and women.
Shriver’s work has earned her Emmys, a Peabody award, and recognitions from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for developing a “television show with a conscience.”
Shriver has authored six best-selling books, including Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Out Into the Real World and Just Who Will You Be?