Learning while Leading: Female Executive Directors’ Learning at Work

By Michelle Coombs.

Published by The International Journal of Adult, Community and Professional Learning

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: October 20, 2015 $US5.00

Dominant discourses leadership and counter discourses are entwined in female nonprofit executive directors’ work and learning experiences and are constructed and challenged in their talk. In Canada there is little focus on women’s workplace learning in the non-profit sector. Learning itself is caught up in competing discourses; the dominant discourse recognising learning that is formalized, institutionalized, measurable and professionalized. Women who lead non-profit organizations face barriers as they may value the unique learning that takes place in practice however the prominent focus on "book smarts" undervalues this learning. Discursive approaches to leadership and learning at work recognise that taken-for-granted, masculine discourses are replicated and challenged in day-to-day leadership learning. The examination of female executive directors’ learning while leading using a discursive approach contributes to the field of learning in the following ways. It connects micro discursive practices to macro truth conditions which lends insight into how gendered concepts of leadership are preserved but also how they are challenged. It supports a better understanding of how informal learning is integral to social change. Executive directors’ "talk" illumes how learning about leadership is tied up in dominant and counter discourses making this "talk" a site for challenging the status quo.

Keywords: Women, Leadership, Informal Learning

The International Journal of Adult, Community and Professional Learning, Volume 22, Issue 4, December 2015, pp.29-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: October 20, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 437.853KB)).

Michelle Coombs

PhD Student, LHAE, OISE, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada