Rosanna Hertz

Rosanna Hertz
(781) 283-2141
Women's and Gender Studies
B.A., Brandeis University; M.A., Ph.D., Northwestern University
On leave Fall 2017
Founders 422B

Rosanna Hertz

Class of 1919 – 50th Reunion Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies

Researches families in a changing economy and how social inequality at home and in the workplace shape the experiences of women and men.


Rosanna Hertz is the Classes of 1919-1950 Reunion Professor of Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies at Wellesley College where she has taught since 1983.  She is currently chair of the WGST department. Hertz teaches courses on changing families and social policy, the social construction of gender, and women, work and the global economy. She also teaches a first-year seminar on “The Body.”   Hertz believes that working independently and individually with students is one of the hallmarks of a small college and her favorite way of teaching and sharing knowledge.  She always has undergraduate research assistants on her projects.

In broad terms  Hertz researches families in a changing economy and how social inequality at home and in the workplace shape the experiences of women and men. Presently she is interested in the pivotal moments that influence certain kinds of women leaders.  She also researches the complexity of  “modern families” created through the use of donor gametes and embryos and how the Internet is both revolutionizing the choices for people seeking to enter into third-party reproduction arrangements and creating new possibilities for connection.

 Professor Hertz is currently working on three strands of research.  The first project, “The Social and Biogenetic Factors in the Making of Families”  (a collaboration with Margaret K. Nelson and funded by the National Science Foundation) examines how innovative relations are developing among families who selected the same donor, how technological developments have made genetic relatives possible and how these families may become a new political group making demands on the fertility industry. The second research project,  “The Gift of Children:  Conceiving through Donor Gametes or Embryos” is situated in Spain. Data has been collected through a reproductive clinic used both by individuals living in Spain and others who have traveled from their home countries in order to conceive a child.  This research will add to studies on fertility and global reproduction. She and her coauthor, Margaret Nelson, have been awarded a Brocher Foundation Fellowship to analyzing this data.

“Productive Rule Breakers and Innovators,” Professor Hertz’s third project, seeks to better understand the motivations and the tactic of men and women who stretch everyone’s thinking about what’s possible. They “stretch the envelope” while remaining loyal to the organizations and communities that nurtured them. They inspire others to have similar aspirations and to challenge the status quo – rather than withdrawing or complaining from the sidelines. The specific focus of this study is the experience of women who have become productive rule breakers and innovators in developing economies – specifically India and China. It examines the context of their lives – the “intersection of biography and history” – in an effort to understand how education, family background, social structure and social networks influenced their distinctive personal and professional trajectories. It seeks to understand the critical moments and events that encouraged each woman to become a different kind of leader – a productive rule breaker.

Books she has written in this vein include, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women Are Choosing Parenthood without Marriage and Creating the New American Family (Oxford University Press) and More Equal than Others: Women and Men in Dual-Career Marriages (University of California Press) and Working Families: The Transformation of the American Home  (edited with Nancy L. Marshall) Berkeley: University of California Press.  She received a B.A. at Brandeis University in sociology and philosophy and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University. In addition, she completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.   She has had a long-standing interest in social science methodology. She has edited several books and journal volumes about various aspects of methodology.

She is frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe. She appears in the broadcast media commenting on social problems for local news specials.