In March 2015, Dr. Gayle Barge, vice president of Institutional Advancement at Bellevue College was honored by Diverse Issues in Higher Education—a nationally circulated magazine with a majority readership of college-educated minority groups—as one of the nation’s Top 25 Women in Higher Education. The magazine recognized Dr. Barge as an expert on African-American women studies and work-life balance, a person’s ability to balance the needs of their jobs with the needs of their external life, such as family and personal health.
Dr. Barge’s deviation from what she considers the current culture of work-life balance research—and all other social research—stems from her disagreement with the centuries-long practice of surveying all women as an equal demographic, without viewing racial background as a variable in an individual’s life and responsibilities.
“Too often women of color, and this applies to students as well, you tend to be put into one grouping without an appreciation or an understanding of the journey or the struggle,” said Dr. Barge.
In her dissertation, “A phenomenological study of competing priorities and African American women striving to achieve work-life balance,” Dr. Barge addressed this.
“Despite the significance of [African American women’s] presence,” the abstract reads, “research to date on the topic of work-life balance and family issues is based primarily on the experiences of middle-class white women.”
The dissertation goes on to describe through anecdotal study how the priorities of African American women may be shaped by both current and ancestral social pressures.
“While all women struggle with issues related to work-life conflict, missing from this dialogue were the voices of African American women who constitute 7 percent of the U.S. population and one of the largest demographic groups in organizations,” the dissertation concluded. “Their life experiences and cultural dynamics inherent within historical antecedents of slavery and oppression are significant points of reference that must be added not only to topical debates, but also to diversity initiatives implemented by organizations within every business and industry.”
Dr. Barge will be presenting her dissertation to Oxford’s Women’s Leadership Symposium in Oxford, England later this year.
Dr. Barge finds joy in working at Bellevue College, saying “I love being here. This is a school that’s poised to do some amazing things, and I think that’s probably one of the main reasons that I came here.”
“First of all from a diversity and pluralism standpoint, I think our president is probably one of the best leaders clearly in the state of Washington, and in the region, in terms of understanding the importance and the richness of diversity,” Dr. Barge explained.
Dr. Barge still believes that Bellevue College has room to improve, but is proud that the school has built a culture of social justice. “Everybody here gets it,” said Dr. Barge. “They get the importance of embracing each other.”