Rosanna  Hertz, PhD

Rosanna Hertz, PhD

Wellesley College

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

Expertise: Sociologywomen studiesGender Studiescontemporary reproduction

Professor Hertz has taught at Wellesley College for 35 years in both the sociology and women’s and gender studies departments. She teaches courses on the contemporary reproduction, changing families and social inequalities, global families and social policies, the social construction of gender, and women’s leadership at work.  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.

Hertz is known for her research on the intersection of families, work and gender. For the past 25 years, she has focused on the emergence of new family forms and how they expand our understanding of kinship. She is especially interested in how the Internet is revolutionizing the choices people make as they enter into third-party reproduction arrangements (e.g. sperm and egg donor use) and also how the Internet has become a site of new possibilities for connection between genetic relatives.   Her 2006 book, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice captured popular attention with its finding that the age-old desire for motherhood was in fact reinforced by new scientific advances in reproduction. Her new book, Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings and the Creation of New Kin, with her coauthor Margaret K. Nelson, examines the contemporary interplay of genetics, social interaction, and culture expectations in the formation of web-based donor sibling kin groups. A new set of complexities emerge as donor siblings attempt to expand our understanding of kinship. (Oxford University Press 2019). 

She continues her focus on how social inequality at home and in the workplace shape the experiences of women and men. Her first book, More Equal than Others: Women and Men in Dual-Career Marriages and also Working Families (edited with Nancy Marshall) address inequalities that persist between spouses and within the broader economy and how people attempt to resolve them.   Most recently, she is interested in the pivotal moments that influence the behavior of women as leaders and how they stretch their thinking about what is possible, often resisting and productively “breaking rules.”

Hertz has had a long-standing interest in social science methodology. This includes new conventions in data collection and ethnographic writing. For example, Random Families  presents an innovative way to study donor sibling networks. In this research the researchers crisscrossed the U.S. in order to gather in-person interviews and technology based interviews with over 350 parents, children and sometimes the children’s donor who are genetically related. In other books and articles she addresses issues of reflexivity and voice as well as studies of elites.  In addition, she has edited several volumes about how social scientist autobiographical accounts influence their research. She is the former editor of Qualitative Sociology.

Hertz received her PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University and completed a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Most recently she has held appointments at Harvard’s Law School in the Petrie-Flem Center and at the Brocher Foundation in Switzerland. Most recently the National Science Foundation and the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation have funded her research.

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.

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