From a Politics of Dilemmas to a Politics of Paradoxes: Feminism, Pedagogy, and Women’s Leadership for Social Change

Ronit Kark*, Ruth Preser, Tanya Zion-Waldoks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Transformational learning is a process resulting in deep and significant change in habitual patterns of identity, thought, emotion, and action, enabling new approaches to role enactment. This article explores how moving from a framework of dilemmas, which require solutions and one-sided choices, to a framework of paradoxes that embraces tensions and contradictions can contribute to meaningful transformational learning in the context of women’s leadership development. Drawing on recent theories of paradoxes and on critical feminist theory, we propose a critical feminist pedagogy of paradoxes for developing women’s leadership of social change enterprises. This perspective is put forth based on our analysis of an experiential course in a graduate gender studies program wherein participants take on leadership roles and interrogate them, by integrating theoretical discussions, reflection, and practical engagement in social activism. We use case studies from our students’ experiences in the field and in the classroom to demonstrate and explore the use of paradoxical thinking for teaching complex modes of leadership. We then show how fundamental, unresolvable paradoxes can be generative of novel ways of enacting social change leadership. We suggest several advantages and implications that this critical feminist pedagogy of paradoxes can have on the development of women’s leadership.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)293-320
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Management Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.


  • class
  • empowerment
  • ethnicity
  • feminist and critical pedagogy
  • gender
  • paradox
  • postcolonial theory
  • practice
  • social change
  • women’s leadership


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