Tell us about yourself Chine.
I’m the oldest of three girls. We are from the Igbo tribe in the south-east of Nigeria and moved to the UK when I was four years old. I knew at a very early age that I wanted to be a journalist and spent most holidays at newspapers or magazines. I’ve always loved writing and meeting new people and thought this would be the perfect profession for me. I ended up studying theology at university, though, and working on the Cambridge student newspaper Varsity when I wasn’t in lectures. Studying theology with people from lots of different faith and non-faith backgrounds enabled me to have an understanding of different points of view and the ideas, histories and values that go into shaping a society and its beliefs. I worked as a local newspaper reporter after doing a postgraduate NCTJ qualification in journalism before going on to be editor at the Crown Prosecution Service’s legal magazine. I joined the Evangelical Alliance in 2010 and have been thankful ever since of having a job I love. It’s completely fascinating. I get to be involved in so many different amazing things with people from all walks of life – it’s amazing to witness the power of faith to influence society for good.
You've recently become a director at the Evangelical Alliance. Tell us about your leadership journey.
At every stage of my ‘leadership journey’, I’ve felt I haven’t been ready – that there must have been some kind of mistake. This imposter syndrome started as far back as secondary school when I was picked as form captain on the first day of year seven, and netball captain shortly afterwards. In many ways, I still feel like an 11-year-old. But at every stage, even though I’ve felt ill-equipped, I’ve seen God do amazing things that have been beyond my capabilities. I realise however that a lot of these feelings are the feelings that many female leaders experience. We often feel like imposters when we are in the positions that we are in, because of hard work, skill and being given opportunities. Since joining the Alliance four years ago, I’ve been so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given to step up into leadership. I work with an amazing team of passionate, highly-skilled people and there’s not a day I’ve ever come into work thinking I don’t like my job. In December, I became the first black female to join the Alliance leadership team as a director in its 168-year history. I’m thankful to the many women who have pushed me, inspired me and been a listening ear – especially my work mentor Helen Calder – who for many years has been the only woman on the leadership team. Glad to be giving her some company!
Often at Sophia, we discuss leadership styles. How would you best describe your style of leadership?
I think the best leaders lead like themselves. It’s the only way I know how to be. So I guess I’m approachable, friendly and try to bring out the best in my team. I think being a good leader is also about knowing your team and teammates well – and figuring out the best way to get the best out of them and for them to enjoy their work. I’ve been fascinated in recent years in thinking more about different personality types – I know each of my team’s Myers Briggs results! I recently went on a course for women leaders run by Next Leadership. One thing I took away from that is the realisation that conflict shouldn’t be avoided at all costs, but is sometimes a necessity to ensure you can achieve the goals you and your team are working towards.
As a recent Trustee of Sophia Network, please tell us about some of your personal experiences which have made you passionate about championing the equality of women and men in the church?
I’m fascinated by women and amazed by how much we can achieve when we work together and support each other. I have a few groups of close female friends who walk the journey with me. I find them such an encouragement and an inspiration. But working in leadership of a para-Church organisation, I’ve been frustrated by the way in which I see women held back – and how we often hold ourselves and each other back. Recent years have also seen an awakening of women’s movements and campaigns in wider society and I’ve reflected on what it means for us as Christian women. My particular area of interest is in how women’s self-esteem is so often tied up in a negative body image, which we don’t address enough in the Church, and which has implications for how we hold ourselves and how we view ourselves as people made in the image of God. I see the potential there would be for changing our world for good, if only women were treated equally to men in all spheres of society, including the Church.
What advice would you give to women who are struggling with disempowerment in their contexts of leadership?
I’d say that it’s good to talk. Talking to other women can be such an amazing help. If only for the fact that you realise that you’re not alone; that there are women going through exactly the same thing as you right now. I think we also need to look out for others who might be struggling. Often we assume that everyone has got it all worked out, apart from us. But it’s simply not true. And realising that alone can get you through the hard times.
Do you set yourself personal aims for a new year?
I used to make a list every year of what I wanted to do, but I’ve been a bit more relaxed about that in the past couple of years. Because I’ve seen God do the impossible – far more than I could have asked or imagined – so I’m pretty open these days to seeing what happens next.
Chine Mbubaegbu is a writer, journalist and director of communications at the Evangelical Alliance. She studied theology & religious studies at Cambridge University and is the author of ‘Am I Beautiful?’– a book exploring body image and faith. As well as being a trustee of Sophia Network, she is also a trustee of the Bible Society, the Church & Media Network and the Christian Enquiry Agency.