Kathleen Gerson (1971)

Professor of Sociology, New York University.

Although my experiences at Berkeley were a mix of exhilaration and struggle, I can't imagine a more intellectually invigorating place to develop a sociological imagination. Like others, I drew great support and inspiration from my fellow students and the environment of engagement they provided. Working on large research projects, most notably Hal Wilensky's comparative study of modern welfare states and Claude Fischer's study of urban social networks, allowed me to learn the craft of sociology by doing it. These apprenticeships taught me how to discover and develop large ideas through careful research. They also gave me faith that sociology mattered. All of my professors, including Arlie Hochschild (who inspired me to be creative and brave in the search for knowledge that is not only accurate but true) as well as Hal and Claude, gave me the room to find my own sociological voice.

My research has sought to combine the deep understandings developed throughqualitative interviews with the rigor of systematically collected samples andcarefully situated comparisons. At both Berkeley and my subsequent home, the NYU Sociology Department, my main focus has been on understanding the link between processes of social and individual change, with a special focus on how the conflicts and contradictions between social institutions and individual lives prompt innovative strategies of action, belief, and discourse. All of my books have investigated the rapidly changing intersections among gender, work, and family life, including Hard Choices (1985), about women's efforts to resolve the conflicts between work and family in the context of institutional contradiction and flux; No Man's Land (1993), about the transformation in men's family and work choices in the wake of the women's revolution; The Time Divide (with Jerry A. Jacobs, 2004), about the rise of new social inequalities rooted in the changing dynamics of work and family time; and The Unfinished Revolution (2010), about how a new generation of young women and men are fashioning innovative gender, work, and family strategies as they respond to blurring gender boundaries, shifting domestic arrangements, and persisting work-family conflicts.

My books on women, men, and the children of the gender revolution seem to form a kind of trilogy, and they have provided the opportunity to participate in the public debate on these critical issues. As important, interviewing hundreds of people about their public and private lives has given me a great appreciation for my own good fortune. I have been able to combine meaningful work with a gratifying family life, and I still wake up every day eager to do sociology and make sense of the puzzles of 21st century social life.

Dissertation Title: 
Hard Choices: How Women Decide About Work, Career, and Motherhood
Dissertation Book Title: 
Hard choices : how women decide about work, career, and motherhood