It seems so retro: An ambitious man works hard, gets a terrific job, and as a result, his wife loses her terrific job. That's what happened to Maria Shriver when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California.
Let's face it: Being first lady is a weird gig. Shriver, however, is giving the position a serious makeover. One of her duties has been to organize the annual California Conference on Women, and on her watch it has exploded into the largest meeting of women in the nation.
Fourteen thousand women (and about 14 men) flocked to Long Beach on Tuesday to discuss the environment and the economy, volunteerism, family and soul. And if even the idea of a women's conference seems retro, well, women are in a unique moment in time, Shriver noted. The ambitions and work habits that have enabled women to succeed alongside men have come at a cost to community and family.
At the conference, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman interviewed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner and micro-credit guru, shared a panel with Kay Warren, head of AIDS outreach for Saddleback Church and the wife of its pastor, Rick Warren. Queen Rania of Jordan spoke, and so did Jamie Lee Curtis. Friedman said his wife asked him not to embarrass her. Blair, asked if the U.S. is ready for a woman president, stared out at the audience, stammered and said, "Of course."