The fifth annual Young Women’s Leadership Symposium aimed to inspire confidence in the political efficacy of people of all races and genders on Friday, April 10, in the MUC ballroom.

“The general purpose [of The Young Women’s Leadership Symposium] is to promote political advocacy,” said Political Science Professor Marsha Lyle-Gonga. “Ultimately, we want individuals to know they can make a difference in society.”

There were 28 males and 90 females in attendance.

Interim Provost Jaime Taylor and Student Life and Engagement Graduate Assistant Tahji Peebles gave opening remarks, leading into a presentation from Mallory Fundora, the 15-year-old founder of Project Yesu.

Fundora explained the purpose of Project Yesu — a nonprofit organization aiming to provide food, medicine and education to the children of Uganda — and encouraged her audience to acknowledge issues they see daily.

“I challenge my peers to look around and open their eyes to the issues around them,” Fundora said. “I encourage them to make a difference, whether it’s in their schools, neighborhoods or cities.”

The keynote luncheon speaker, State Representative of the 54th District Brenda Gillmore, shared her seven tips to have a “Yes we can” attitude, which included the importance of voting, being the best you are capable of being and always believing in your god.

The symposium featured sessions from professors in disciplines ranging from communication to professional studies.

Assistant Professor of communication Christina Hicks-Goldston led a session entitled, “Finding Your Voice: Communicating Female Presence and Identity.” Hicks-Goldston’s session looked at how women are viewed in society by examining the organizations dedicated to women, such as the Girl Scouts, Girls for a Change and Girls Who Code, an organization “educating and equipping girls with the computing skills needed to pursue 21st-century opportunities,” according to its website.

Hicks-Goldston emphasized the idea that women have the choice of what they want to become in society. “[Women] make choices … in our education … in our career … in our legacy,” said Hicks-Goldston. “All these things are your voice in the world.”

Lyle-Gonga and Associate Professor of professional studies Victoria McCarthy both led sessions on different aspects of leadership skills.

During Lyle-Gonga’s session, entitled “Leadership and Public Service,” Professor Emeritus of political science David Kanervo made an appearance, and the pair explained the six leadership styles: visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting and commanding.

McCarthy’s session, entitled “Leadership Team Building,” focused on the team-building aspects of leadership. McCarthy said the four steps to team building are establishing a purpose, selecting a team, establishing roles within the team and planning and executing your purpose. McCarthy followed this lecture with an exercise where two students were named team leaders, and the leaders selected a team, established roles within the team and executed their assigned purpose.

As a member of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, sophomore public management major Taylor Rose said the symposium was “insightful.” “I have never really broken down elements of being a leader,” Rose said. “I’ve seen a few of these things before, but I was still inspired.”

As chair of the APSU Department of Political Science, Lyle-Gonga said she started the symposium in 2010 as a place “…where women and young girls can get together and talk about [the small number of women in leadership roles] and give them the confidence to go and get involved.”

Lyle-Gonga said one of the main issues concerning women in leadership roles is the general perception society has of women. “We’re limited to people’s perceptions about what we should be doing,” Lyle-Gonga said. “For example, you see a woman, and you’re thinking, ‘She’s a great mom, she needs to go home and take care of her kids,’ and those kinds of gender roles.”

Lyle-Gonga also said the wage gap, where women are paid approximately 75 percent of what men are paid, is another issue women face in leadership roles. “[The wage gap] is a conversation we have to have with both genders,” Lyle-Gonga said.

The Young Women’s Leadership Symposium aims to get young women involved in leadership positions. Gillmore ended her keynote speech with an anecdote on leadership, coming to a conclusion on what a good leader is.

“A good leader carries peers and friends as far as they can go, and then they launch them to fly even higher and achieve even more,” Gillmore said.

The sixth annual Young Women’s Leadership Symposium is set to take place on Friday, March 4, 2016.