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How Women Learn – the mini series – part 2

We often underestimate how we make meaning of our knowledge.

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Women learn informally. 

We were 12 on that late night Zoom session. Dialing in from Zimbabwe, Congo, South America, UK and the US. 12 global citizens, coming together to talk about COVID times, all having radically different experiences and yet, able to exchange and find commonalities in their own shared stories. We were holding conversations and exchanging experiences that resonate with each of us. 

A number of researchers such as Josselson* have underscored that women’s development is linked to their sense of self in relation to others, rather than as individuals operating independently. This was all the more evident during this coaching conversation. We were experiencing informal learning. 

What, you may ask, is that? Think of learning as being experienced in two ways:

  1. Formal learning which is typically delivered by academic institutions and often highly structured and classroom-led (e.g. training programmes, MBAs, etc.) 
  2. Informal learning, which in contrast, is usually unstructured, not teacher-led, and involves minimal external support. It is experiential, takes place as people go about their every day activities. 

Informal learning occurs in instances such as “networking, coaching and mentoring”. Pretty much anytime you are awake! We often underestimate how we make meaning of our knowledge. An exchange with other women may help create this meaning. It is therefore unsurprising that women in coaching groups often experience transformative and insightful learning moments. As we focused on our experiences on that Zoom call, we leaned into what we could take away to implement in our own lives. 

Tip? Invest in relationships and connections to accelerate your knowledge, share insights and expand your possibilities. 

As observed by Thomas Suddendorf, evolutionary psychologist, we have the urge to link our minds together because it “allows us to take advantage of others’ experiences, reflections, and imaginings to prudently guide our own behavior.”

Zooming in from Zimbabwe to NY made that mind link possible. 


*Josselson, R. (1987). Finding herself: Pathways to identity development in women. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

Hugs and joy,

Helen Krug von Nidda is a contagiously optimistic Coach, Speaker and Trainer. With over 20 years of Human Resources experience, she coaches global female citizens looking to transition to their desired life and career.  Her advice is featured in Medium and Thrive Global and in her blog and song at www.with-helen.com

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