Organizations must address a myriad of issues from diversity initiatives to ensuring that work-life programs are responsive to the needs of its fastest growing segment--women of color of which African American women are the largest minority group. Despite the significance of their presence, research to date on the topic of work-life balance and family issues is based primarily on the experiences of middle-class white women. All women struggle with issues related to work-life conflict. Missing from this dialogue are the voices of African American women. Despite evidence that work is a significant domain in their lives, researchers have limited information about their career experiences or how they integrate the world of work with their personal lives. The intent of this study was to provide, via narratives, diverse views of how African American women conceptualize and balance work and family. 1. How do competing priorities impact the lives of African American women who are striving to achieve work-life balance? 2. What experiences shape the life course of African American women that impact work-family life balance decisions? 3. How do sociodemographic variables influence work-family life decisions? The research design for this phenomenological study was qualitative. Thirty African American women participated in interviews and provided sociodemographic data. The interviews were taped and downloaded into NVivo9 software that was utilized to analyze the histories of each participant, including developing linkages between sociodemographic data and qualitative data. The analysis was compared with Giele's themes using the theoretical framework from the 4 life course dimensions. Thirty African American women shared personal and professional experiences affirming their cultural and historical perspectives and commitment to bring their voices to a dialogue that previously marginalized the relevance of their journey. Findings confirmed that relationships, discrimination, ageism, workplace dynamics, and wellness were among the competing priorities impacting their abilities to achieve sustainable balance at home and work. This study challenged previously accepted discourses of scholarship, incorporated new thinking, and facilitated understanding of the historical and socioeconomic impact from African American viewpoints.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organization change; African American women; Work-life balance

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Weber, Margaret J.;