Lisa Gale is an economist, international trade specialist and the executive director of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI). As a professional woman she scores heavily. When it comes to the job of wife and mother, she gives herself even higher grades: “In private life I am the wife of Gregory; I am a mother to son Ethan, six, and my two stepkids – Gabrielle, 20, and Keenan, 18,” Lisa explains. “I enjoy the role of mother and wife immensely.”
The 38-year-old executive who is entering her 13th year of marriage said, “I think that helps me to be grounded because the challenges of the professional world can be easily abated when you go home and have a little six-year-old screaming at you or a husband waiting. They need to detox and you are the detoxifying entity . . . . I feel needed and I like feeling needed. It is an interesting dynamic.”
It is an honest admission coming from a woman describing herself as a “still young, still impressionable and an exciting woman of the soil”.
Operating in the fast-paced business climate, answering to several interests in the umbrella organisation she heads requires a special kind of dynamism, which she clearly has. She says managing the professional role “has its rewards and its challenges”.
The challenge lies in working to achieve the three goals she has set herself for the organisation – “getting the opportunity to see the private sector moving to a place of having a greater sense of export focus; expanding our international competitiveness and broadening the base of firms that are within the private sector”.
But after a typical day in which there may be one or two meetings, some activity involving advocacy on behalf of BCCI members and responding to myriad questions of concern to them, she goes home to the haven she has created with husband Gregory.
“I do believe that women have a critical role to play at home. I believe that they can do both (career and wife), but I think a woman is best served in that role of nurturing and caring for the family.”
Explaining her position, she said: “I think genuinely God had a plan when He planned the role of the woman, being the heart of the home and the man being the head of the home. I think that is divinely designed and it should not be altered. I know that today’s environment is shaped by a different ecosystem and as a result of the changing face of economy, society, gender and business, I know that women have to sit in some different roles than they had to 1 000 years ago . . . .
“As a result women have had to sit in different roles which have impacted on their home life and their heart life and I think that that has had an impact on the pre-eminence of the woman in the home.”
She used to have her own perception on what a wife should be and how an independent woman would want to respond to the challenge of being wife and business executive at the top of her game. But all that changed as she observed the relationship between one of her friends with an African husband – two people with a marriage in sync, sharing activities and projecting a married lifestyle rooted in the cultural familial norms of Africa. That marriage “helped me to better appreciate wifery.”
Also influencing her approach to her own marriage was another friend, an academically qualified single mother with her own business. “She dotes on her family; everything about them comes first . . . . I look on at these women and I would like to be like them.
“I believe a woman is best served in that role of nurturing and caring for a family. That is my own opinion, and I say that passionately.”
Showing a depth and profoundness in thought, she shared some details of her own experience growing up in a house with only a mother after her father had moved out of the home when she was ten years old. Despite her father’s physical absence from the house, he remained in his children’s lives, but Lisa said, “I saw my mother become the head and the heart of the home and had to juggle both. She became the sole breadwinner and I looked on, not having an appreciation for the filling-in, because it really was not the ideal home. But that impacted on me in terms of my independence, my drive, my passion and my ambition.”
At work and socially, it is conservatism in dress all the way for the young executive, who remarked, “Sometimes my conservatism is rooted in the consciousness of my body’s shape.” Low-cut necklines showing the cleavage of her buxom figure are a no-no in her wardrobe. “That’s not me at all. I like that conservative style and on the professional side I do like to see a woman in nice elegant attire.”
“I have exuded conservatism for all the time I have known myself.”
She is still trying to decide whether she is an introvert or an extrovert and rather than flip the coin she settles for “extroverted introvert.
“I like my quiet time. I like my space. I like my privacy. But I still like to be out there being the life of the party sometimes. But as I get older I realise I am more of an introvert than I thought I was.”
What she knows for sure is that she is “very firm but also very sensitive” and would like to know that her forceful confidence is not mistaken for arrogance.
The former Combermerian says, “I walk in a strong sense of confidence knowing who I am, where I have come from and where I am going. I don’t have any hesitation to speak my mind; I am a very frank person and a very firm believer in what I believe in.”
“If anybody tells you a few things about me, one of them is that I am a very frank person; two, I am a very confident person; three, a very ambitious person.”
At the end of the work day Lisa’s family can look forward to a “fun-loving, very sporty, very down-to earth” wife and mother coming home to them, sitting down for a family meal and afterwards settling down to one of the games she loves to play with them.