MAHALIA SMITH | CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Dozens of women and a handful of men attended the seventh Annual Young Women’s Leadership Symposium on Friday, April 21.
The event began at 8:30 a.m. with speeches from President Alisa White and General Counsel Dannelle Whiteside.
“How many of you,” Whiteside said, “when you were little, were told that you are a little to bossy?”
Across the room, women raised their hands. The symposium focused on women standing up for themselves in life, whether it be negotiating pay, assuming leadership roles or simply being confident in their own abilities.
“I used to regard being a woman as a fact,” Whiteside said. “[Now] I know it is a superpower.”
Among the attendees was freshman political science major Emily Kleinhans.
“I wanted to learn more tips [about] how to become a leader and go into leadership roles,” Kleinhans said.
Junior political science major Michaela Gonzalez said she came for similar reasons.
“I wanted to get different perspectives from women in the field,” Gonzales said. “I really liked the first speech, it was so relatable to many different people.”
Junior Health and Human Performance major Shatika McDonald, took her daughter to the symposium.
“I wanted to expose my daughter to the type of environment she will be in,” McDonald said.
As a nontraditional student McDonald said the symposium was especially useful.
“I wanted to see […] which areas I needed to work on, what the playing field was like, and what I needed to do to succeed.” McDonald said. “I am so used to women expected to be patient [and] are expected to not be in charge.”
After the breakfast session, the seminar broke into individual class sessions. The women had several classes to choose from, including “Use Your Brain: Women in Science” led by Amy Thompson, associate professor of biology, and Nicholas Harriel; and “Strategies to End the Gender Wage Gap” led by WNDAACC director Marcelius Braxton.
After the sessions, everyone was brought together for lunch. It began with an awards ceremony, in which Jan Kirtley recieved the 2017 Women in Philanthropy Award.
There was some controversy about the chosen luncheon speaker, Rep. Marsha Blackburn. As she took the podium to speak, several women led by Sara Alexander, president of College Democrats and Phi Alpha Theta, entered the ballroom with signs protesting Blackburn.
“Marsha Blackburn is not a representation for women in leadership, given that she’s voted against women.” Alexander said. “She voted to defund Planned Parenthood and to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”
Blackburn ignored the silent protest, she ended her speech on leadership with the acronym, T.E.A.M.
“Together everyone can achieve more,” Blackburn said.
Despite the controversy, the attendees seemed to enjoy the symposium and its efforts to support and encourage women in leadership.