The purpose of this feminist participatory action research study was to explore a somatic learning approach to management education with women managers. The objective was to explore the significance of gender for women managers, the relationship of the body to management, and uncover knowledge of fostering somatic pedagogy.
The theoretical framework guiding this study, feminist poststructuralism, offered a lens through which to view the importance of gender. Additionally, the feminist poststructural constructs of positionality, deconstructing binaries, language, and discourse offered insight into the way women managers make meaning of their bodies’ role in constructing and making meaning of knowledge.
Utilizing a feminist participatory action research design, the study offers an example of feminist research that takes women’s issues and concerns into consideration and emphasizes collaboration through active participation. As action research, the study is unique because of its origination and implementation in the community as opposed to a formal classroom or organization. Data collection was completed through an initial interview, journaling, email communication, and a follow-up interview. The fifteen participants offered a range of perspectives about the bodies’ connection to management as well as the significant ways gender impacts their managerial style and experiences as a female manager.
The study contributes to the fields of adult and management education considerable data about embodied ways of sharing and creating knowledge, which adds to an under-researched but developing aspect of each field. Specifically, the study offers both adult and management education three major areas important to somatic pedagogy.
First, the relationship of dialogue to somatic learning emerged as critical to the experience. The participants found the embodied dialogue during the workshop sessions validating, empowering, and reassuring. Second, maintaining learner centrality involves ongoing inclusiveness of lived experiences, existing knowledge, and ideas and opinions of those invested in the learning process. Fostering learner-centeredness was especially important to the participants who strongly valued the interaction with other professional women and for creating a safe atmosphere in which to share details about their body’s experience in relationship to managing. Third, the study expanded upon the participants’ existing consciousness of their bodies and urged them to consider their bodies’ actions and reactions in a particular context, which in this case was management. Through yoga, the women were able to relate concepts from poses to management practice such as flexibility, strength, conflict, balance, honoring decisions, taking time to focus, and stress management. Each of these findings presents vast implications for the development and implementation of a somatic pedagogy for adult and management education as well as organizations dedicated to holistic training and development.