Kathleen Gerson

Kathleen Gerson

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As a Professor of Sociology and Collegiate Professor of Arts and Science at New York University, I study gender, work, and family life in the United States and other post-industrial societies.  My books and articles offer original research and innovative frameworks for explaining the causes, contours, and consequences of the contemporary revolution in gender, work, and family patterns.  A recognized authority on work-family conflict and gender change, I am currently examining the new worlds of work and care emerging in Silicon Valley and other cutting-edge locations, where uncertain jobs and fragile personal relationships are shaping new work and family pathways for today’s women and men.

Although I use a range of methods, including survey and census analysis, I specialize in qualitative interviewing, with an eye to uncovering how personal biographies intersect with social institutions in flux to bring about social change.  My interviews combine the deep understandings of qualitative material with the rigor of systematic samples and carefully situated comparisons.

My theoretical concern is to explain the connections between processes of social and individual change.  I am especially interested in understanding how conflicts within and among institutions create dilemmas that prompt people to develop new social forms.  My current work on “the new worlds of work and care” focuses on how the rise of uncertain job trajectories and unpredictable relationships is reshaping the dynamics of gender and class inequality.  Additional projects include a vignette study of the contradictory views Americans hold about employed mothers and fathers and a book on the theory and method of in-depth interviewing as a research strategy.

My most recent book, The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family, offers an original account of the how “the children of the gender revolution” have experienced growing up in changing families and how they are grappling with new work and family options as they enter adulthood.  The Unfinished Revolution shows how irreversible but incomplete change has created a growing clash between new egalitarian ideals and resistant social institutions. Although young women and men hope to fashion flexible, egalitarian gender strategies, they are falling back on less desirable options that foster new gender divides, especially between “self-reliant” women and “neo-traditional” men. The solution to these challenges is to finish the gender revolution by creating more flexible, egalitarian workplaces and child-supportive communities.

In addition to The Unfinished Revolution, I am the author or co-author of four additional books and dozens of articles, essays, and opinion pieces.  My first book, Hard Choices: How Women Decide About Work, Career, and Motherhood (University of California, 1985; paperback, 1986), provided an early framework for understanding women’s paths and strategies amid revolutionary shifts in work, marriage, and parenthood. A finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award and the William J. Goode Distinguished Book Award, Hard Choices continues to inform ongoing debates about women’s work and family commitments.

My next book, No Man’s Land: Men’s Changing Commitments to Family and Work (Basic Books, 1993; paperback, 1994), analyzed the pervasive but often ignored changes in men’s lives and charted men’s responses to institutional shifts that have given them both expanded freedom to avoid family responsibilities and rising incentives to become more involved in family life. No Man’s Land was chosen as an ASA “Author Meets the Critics” featured book and selected as a “new and noteworthy” paperback by The New York Times Book Review.

More recently, I teamed with Jerry A. Jacobs (University of Pennsylvania) on The Time Divide: Family, Work, and Gender Inequality (Harvard University Press, 2004, paperback, 2005), which draws on census, survey, and cross-national data to explain how and why growing inequality in working time is dividing Americans in new ways. The Time Divide was named a “best business book” by Strategy Business magazine, received honorable mention for the Mirra Komarovsky Book Award, and was featured at “Author Meets the Critics” sessions for the ASA, the ESS, and the Southern Sociological Society. Work from this project also received the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research.

I have held visiting positions at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City, and the Center for the Study of Status Passages and Risks in the Life Course at the University of Bremen, Germany.  My professional posts include serving as President of the Eastern Sociological Society, Chair of the NYU Sociology Department, Chair of the Family Section of the American Sociological Association, and as an editorial board member of the American Sociological Review and Work and Occupations.

As a committed policy analyst, I have participated in a wide range of public initiatives, including the Ford Foundation Project on Integrating Work, Family, and Community; the Sloan Foundation Research Network on Work-Family Issues; the Gender Module of the General Social Survey; the Council of Research Advisors for Purdue’s Center for Families; Catalyst’s Advisory Board for “The Next Generation of Women Leaders,” and serving as a board member for the Council on Contemporary Families.   It has also been an honor to deliver a number of endowed lectureships, including the Charles Phelps Taft Lecture (at the University of Cincinnati); the Kingsley Birge Endowed Lecture (at Colby College); and the Distinguished Feminist Lecture on Women and Social Change for the Sociologists for Women in Society.

Born in Montgomery, Alabama, I grew up in the South and then moved to San Francisco, California, where I attended high school. After receiving my B.A. from Stanford University and my Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, I joined the New York University faculty, where I continue to teach, write, and conduct research.