Q5: Anne Githuku-Shongwe on a future sans stereotypes [interview]
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) A representative at the UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office, Anne Githuku-Shongwe (@anneshongwe) is an acclaimed speaker and social entrepreneur. She was also part of a masterclass with UN Women and Dove at Loeries in August 2019. Here, she shares a few notes on women’s leadership, stereotypes and social innovation.
Q5: I think it’s safe to say you know a thing or two about women’s leadership. Based on your experience, what would you say is the most-critical skill for women to cultivate for success?
Anne Githuku-Shongwe: Definitely emotional intelligence and compassionate nurturing [are] key for women’s leadership. Women as nurturing leaders always need to find a balance in working environments that come with varying dynamics of both organisational and culture space.
Q5: You have spoken about social innovation and the potential of gamification in bringing about learning and change. How do you think these concepts could be applied in a broad communication context — for example, advertising and marketing?
AGS: When I was an entrepreneur in my past life, I developed a mobile [game] to address the complex issues of gender-based violence and it worked amongst youth. I think, with the evolving of technology and the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) on us, it is imperative to think out of the box and how we apply this in the advertising space. How do we use gamification to address stereotyped advertising? How do we make it fun and yet ensure it is a platform causing change in behaviour and mobilising for action on issues such as gender equality, women’s empowerment and eliminating gender-based violence? Gamification to address complex issues is the way to go, and innovation has to be applied constantly in this 4IR era.
Q5: Continuing with advertising, let’s talk about the Unstereotype Alliance. What are the key goals for this initiative, going into 2020?
AGS: UN Women is keen to get on board at least 10 core members to champion the Unstereotype Alliance South Africa. That will be a good indicator of how serious the creative industry is. At the Loeries in August in Durban, Facebook and Google become two members to join Unstereotype Alliance. We are looking forward to eight more joining. SA’s creative industry has to lead on this; there is no other way.
Q5: In your opinion, what are some of the most-harmful stereotypes still being perpetuated in advertising today?
AGS: Naked women being portrayed as sexual objects; inadequate representation of women as leaders in adverts; not recognising LGBTQ communities. I saw an advert of a person with a disability — there should be more of those; the definition of success [is] always flighted superficially. There is a lot to mention, so it means working together through the Unstereotype Alliance and companies using the tools to check whether an advert is okay to flight as produced. The Unstereotype Alliance provides such tools.
Q5: What can we do in our daily lives to become more aware of our own biases, both conscious and unconscious, that could get in the way of gender equality?
AGS: I think it starts with [the] self — there are a lot of free online courses on gender equality and unconscious bias. UN Women also runs a number of campaigns and plans to provide platforms such as HeForShe [where] individuals can sign up and become part of the solution. For individuals working in creative spaces, they can encourage their companies to sign up for the Unstereotype Alliance through our offices; conversations within families, friends, communities [and] religious organisations can also be part of the solution.
- Find out more about Githuku-Shongwe on LinkedIn.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her regular column “Q5” hones in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with inspiring professionals in diversive fields.