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Informal and socially situated learning: gendered practices and becoming women church leaders

Gina Grandy (Hill and Levene Schools of Business, University of Regina, Regina, Canada)
Sharon Mavin (Newcastle University Business School, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 3 February 2020

Issue publication date: 18 February 2020




This paper aims to explore how informal and socially situated learning and gendered practices impact the experiences of women learning to lead and the gendered dynamics inherent in women’s lived experiences of learning.


The authors adopt a becoming ontology and a social constructionist perspective. A qualitative approach guided by feminist principles facilitated the surfacing of rich and reflective accounts from women leaders. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 women leader priests in Canada.


The authors highlight how gendered practices are concealed and revealed through informal learning processes and illustrate this through two themes, informal and socially situated learning as inductive and gendered, and the jolt of gender discrimination in informal learning.

Research limitations/implications

While each account from the women church leaders is highly valued in its own right and the women’s stories have generated new insights, the overall data set is small and not generalizable. Future research should explore further the types of informal learning initiatives and systems, which acknowledge and best support women learning to lead in (gendered) organizations. It should also explore how informal learning informs leadership styles in this and other contexts.


The research demonstrates how informal learning experiences can serve as a site for invisible and unaccounted for gender bias and inform the becoming of women leaders. The research also advances the limited body of work that seeks to better understand the gender dynamics of women’s leadership in faith-based organizations.



Grandy, G. and Mavin, S. (2020), "Informal and socially situated learning: gendered practices and becoming women church leaders", Gender in Management, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 61-75.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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