Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor on Life and the Supreme Court

Some of nation's most influential women gather at Women's Conference in Calif.

October 26, 2010, 6:50 PM

Oct. 26, 2010— -- Some of the most influential women in the nation shared their life experiences and tried to find new ways to tackle the world's problems today, speaking at a gathering of some 30,000 people in Long Beach, Calif.

Women -- and some men -- from politics, the press, entertainment, and everything in between appeared for the annual Women's Conference, hosted by California First Lady Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" on ABC for more.

On stage during the conference, ABC's Diane Sawyer interviewed two trailblazers -- Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice; and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who joined O'Connor on the court twelve years later. With the appointments of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, four women have now served on the court, with three currently on the bench.

"I've got to tell you, I went to the Supreme Court recently... I sat in on an argument, and I looked up at the bench on which I sat for 25 years, and what did I see?" O'Connor said. "I saw on the far right, a woman. On the far left side, a woman. And here in the middle, a woman. And it was dazzling."

"It's the first time the public can see we're really there. Really there to stay," Ginsburg said.

"How many women would be enough?" Sawyer asked.

"Nine," Ginsburg replied with a smile. "There've been nine men there for a long time, right? So why not nine women?"

The justices told Sawyer not only about their experiences on the high court but also of their early struggles in the workplace and the challenge of raising families while pursuing their careers.

"The world was so different. I was at Harvard Law School for my first two years. There were two buildings with classrooms. Only one of them had a women's bathroom," Ginsburg said.

"I always knew that I wanted to work," O'Connor said. "My husband-to-be, John, knew that too, and he accepted it at a time when many women did not... John was just fabulous and very supportive."

Ginsburg said her husband, Marty Ginsburg, became a "super chef" over the years.

"He said that my cooking was responsible," she quipped.

Maria Shriver also spoke before the crowd, talking about her own experiences and the challenges of being a woman in the public eye.

"I'd like to admit today I was wrong to try to talk Arnold out of not running for governor seven years ago," Shriver said. "The last seven years have taught me that, in fact, it can be the beginning of a journey that forges a stronger, wiser, more confident you."

Shriver also spoke about the loss of her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died last year at the age of 88. Shriver talked about consulting her mother for guidance throughout her life and missing that voice when she passed.

"I finally know what my mother would have told me. She would have said... 'Maria, I believe in you. Now for God's sake, believe in yourself,'" Shriver said.

And back on the Supreme Court panel, Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg also spoke about their belief in the unique role of women in modern life.

"Do you really think at the Supreme Court, where reason prevails, that women bring something unique?" Sawyer asked.

"Well, I think in most hard legal issues, a wise old woman and a wise old man are going to reach the same conclusion," O'Connor said. "But there are cases where our experience as women might bring some perspective to the situation before the court."

"I think that our conversation is more informed because all together, we've had such a wealth of experience," Ginsburg said. "Much better than the day when all of the people on the court looked alike."

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