Light Your Fire

Leilani Carver-Madalon, PhD, associate professor of communication, inspires female leaders to achieve a more equitable workplace.

When she was 13 years old, Leilani Carver-Madalon moved from Southern California to a small town in Missouri. On the first day at her new school, Carver-Madalon sat down at the lunch table and her classmates stood up and walked away. She recalls spending the next few months in social isolation and how she “turned off her light.”

Now Carver-Madalon, PhD, associate professor of communication at Maryville University, is passionate about helping other women ignite their lights and build authentic confidence. She shared this message with attendees at the 2019 TEDx Gateway Arch Bold & Brilliant Women event. “I wasted years with my light off and I don’t want others to do the same,” she said during her talk.

Carver-Madalon focused on women in leadership and discussed the disparities that still exist between male and female leaders. Women earn just 79 cents for every dollar men make, and only six percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOS. The gender gap is largest for women of color especially African American and Latina women. “We have to change systematic inequities that women experience, and it starts with each of us,” Carver-Madalon said.

She then shared strategies, advice and stories to help inspire and instruct female leaders to achieve a more equitable workplace. They included ending the “sorry” epidemic that is detrimental to many women in the workplace and using nonverbal cues like eye contact to express strength. The findings were based off interviews with highly successful women in the United States and across Europe that Carver-Madalon is incorporating into a forthcoming book on women’s leadership.

Serving as a TEDx Gateway Arch speaker is a rigorous process. Carver-Madalon auditioned for the role and was selected from hundreds of applicants. She spent months working with a TEDx Gateway Arch coach to prepare for the Bold & Brilliant Women event, finally delivering her message in front of more than 1,000 attendees.

Carver-Madalon is a thought leader in the Maryville community and teaches courses in the Communication Program and Strategic Communication and Leadership Program. She developed and launched Maryville’s Women’s Leadership Program, which pairs mentors and mentees to teach strategic risk-taking, confidence building, salary negotiation, public speaking and career advancement. The program’s signature event, the Women Who Dare to Dream luncheon, is a celebratory gathering of female students, faculty and staff.

In honor of her work, Carver-Madalon was awarded the 2017 Maryville Woman of Distinction Award and in 2018 was a recipient of a Faculty Spotlight Award. She has served as a guest speaker at numerous conferences and has been featured by Forbes, Fox News and KSDK News for her expertise in communication.

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