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Glenda Hood, the first female Orlando mayor and former Florida Secretary of State, spoke at UCF Tuesday evening about the challenges she faced as a woman trying to break through in politics.

Roughly 200 students, faculty and staff gathered in the Pegasus Ballroom of the Student Union for the event. The UCF Panhellenic Council, Multicultural Student Center, Office of Diversity Initiatives and LGBTQ Services partnered to put on the event.

Hood urged everyone in attendance — both men and women — to be inclusive and welcome diversity in whatever you do.

"The world isn't a very exciting place if there are always the same ideas and opinions. Always be inclusive," she said.

Despite her eventual success as a leader, Hood faced obstacles overcoming the stigma of women in leadership positions at the time. She shared with the audience how she was referred to as "the little gal from Orlando," and how male counterparts often took ideas from the females.

"Some situations could be handled with humor. Other situations had to be dealt with head-on to break down barriers," Hood said.

She also explained to the audience how she received criticism from people because she had young children at the time. She said some people felt she had no business doing what she was because she had children who she should have been at home taking care of.

"Take my mother's advice and work outside of your comfort zone," Hood said. "I look to all of you because you're the ones who can make sure this doesn't happen and that everyone is included."

Hood has served in numerous positions and on numerous councils — including Orlando City Council before becoming mayor in 1992 — and the Urban Land Institute, whose mission is to use land responsibly and sustain thriving communities.

While serving as mayor, Hood created committees to ensure prosperity of the community in the future, and planted seeds for mass transit and performing-arts centers, some of which is implemented today, according to Orange Appeal magazine.

Attendee Caitlin Reese, a freshman marketing and international relations major, said she was inspired by Hood's story.

"It made me want to represent women by doing good [things] and doing the best I can," Reese said.

Shanzay Pervaiz, executive vice president for the UCF Panhellenic Council, pioneered the event in an attempt to offer something that students from varying UCF communities could collectively attend.

"I see there is a gap between the Greek and UCF communities. I wanted to start the opportunity to mesh the communities," Pervaiz said.

Pervaiz reached out to the other UCF services to collaboratively market the event and to invite their respective students so those from differing communities could come together.

She hopes this will be an annual event and the differing UCF entities can continue to collaborate.

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