Yassmin Abdel-Magied is social justice advocate. She was awarded the Young Australian of the Year in 2015 and is currently the Gender Ambassador for the Inter-American Development Bank. Gender equality sits among her many passions. She has a diverse range of interests including engineering, social justice, Formula One motorsports and entrepreneurship. She is founder of community building initiatives Youth Without Borders and Mumtaza.
Abdel-Magied’s TEDTalk (TEDxSouthbank 2017) titled “What does my headscarf mean to you?” (1.8 million views) challenges the unconscious bias relating to both gender and religion that continue to act as barriers to the equal treatment of women in the 21st century.
Effectiveness of Social Media
Throughout 2017 Abdel-Magied has shared and contributed to the public discourse, highlighting issues of gender discrimination and unconscious bias. She uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, opinion pieces, her own website, appearances on television and many other media to celebrate and share experiences, opinion and important current affairs to continually challenge the status quo on gender equality.
The two most notable events have been her appearance on ABC’s Q&A and her Facebook post on April 25, ANZAC Day.
On Q&A in February, Abdel-Magied said “Islam, to me, is one of the most…is the most feminist religion…” (Q&A 2017). In response to criticism and to better articulate her message, she posted an explanatory video to the youth-focused news, current affairs and pop-culture website Junkee.com, currently approaching 6 million views.
This video goes to a wide audience and gives insight to Abdel-Magied’s interpretation of Islamic law and culture, how it relates to Australia and specifically how its use affects Islamic women in different ways across the world. Regardless of the subject matter, this video demonstrates her knowledge of how to use social media to influence and share her message.
On April 25, Ms Abdel-Magied posted a provocative message to her Facebook account (Bolt 2017):
Before long however, she deleted the post and replaced it with the following, accompanied by an apology (Abdel-Magied 2017a):
The original ostensibly cast light on the plight of refugees (many women and children) currently in detention centres or suffering from ongoing conflict in Syria and Palestine. The timing however, on ANZAC Day, was significant with many interpreting it as an insult to the memory of Australian soldiers. This event was controversial yet effective in drawing attention to gender and social justice issues; an estimated 90 000 words have been dedicated to discussing Abdel-Magied and her views between April and July (Abdel-Magied 2017b).
Silence and the Backlash
The public outcry and negative replies to both incidents saw Abdel-Magied retreat from social media platforms for a period. This is a known phenomenon, the “Backlash” (Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt & van Engen 2003; Rudman & Phelan 2008; Leach 2016), a response to women who attempt to enter previously male-dominated spaces. Those who do rise into positions of leadership and influence can face sinister entrenched discrimination, and they are less likely to be seen as good leaders when judged by a majority of men (Bowles & McGinn 2004).
Ideas, Projects & Engagement
Her current Facebook cover symbolises her leadership, featuring her shaking hands with a young girl beside a simple statement, ‘a reminder of why’ (Abdel-Magied 2017c).
Across her channels, she plugs her entrepreneurial venture, the Mumtaza network, focused on providing opportunities for women of colour to establish themselves with a broader audience than they may otherwise.
— Yassmin Abdel-Magied (@yassmin_a) August 14, 2017
She makes concerted efforts to engage with her social media followers. Asking for perspectives on her work, input in the form of contributions, she shares jokes and gets followers engaged in her future projects.
I’m getting back into a writing habit &I would love to share with y’all. What’s the best form that would work for you?
— Yassmin Abdel-Magied (@yassmin_a) July 31, 2017
Her presentation on all media appears consistent with her own personal values and she has a true following of committed allies. Through her online presence, she has built a brand for herself that transcends individual media as a moderate, outspoken, caring, intelligent and insightful person. These acts feed her online image and guarantee future engagements, opportunities and access to deliver her message to a growing audience.
Continued on the next page – Application of Leadership Theory.