Caitlyn Collins

Caitlyn Collins

Director of Undergraduate Studies in Sociology
Associate Professor of Sociology
Gender Equity Fellow, Office of the Provost
PhD, University of Texas at Austin
research interests:
  • Gender Inequality
  • Work
  • Families
  • Social Policy
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    Professor Collins conducts cross-national qualitative research on gender inequality in the workplace and family life. She is broadly interested in the relationship between policy, culture, and social inequality.

    Her current project is an interview study of 135 working mothers in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the United States. These countries offer distinct policy approaches to reconciling work-family conflict. Collins examines how different ideals of gender, motherhood, and employment are embedded in these policies, and how they shape the daily lives of working mothers in each country. A book based on this research, Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving, was published in February 2019 with Princeton University Press.

    Her work also appears in peer-reviewed journals like Gender & Society and Qualitative Sociology, and several edited books, and has been featured in The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review, National Public RadioThe New York Times, and Washington Post, among others.

    She is a 2019 Nancy Weiss Malkiel Scholar (Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation) and a 2018 Work and Family Researchers Network Early Career Fellow. Collins' research is supported by the National Science Foundation, American Association of University Women, and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), among others. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree from Whitman College. Her next project is an ethnographic study of the market for childcare.


    Making Motherhood Work

    Making Motherhood Work

    The work-family conflict that mothers experience today is a national crisis. Women struggle to balance breadwinning with the bulk of parenting, and stress is constant. Social policies don't help. Of all Western industrialized countries, the US ranks dead last for supportive work-family policies: No federal paid parental leave. The highest gender wage gap. No minimum standard for vacation and sick days. Can American women look to European policies for solutions?  

    Drawing on interviews with 135 working mothers in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the US, Caitlyn Collins shows that mothers' desires and expectations depend heavily on context. In Sweden - renowned for its gender-equal policies - mothers assume they will receive support from their partners, employers, and the government. In the former East Germany, with its history of mandated employment, mothers don't feel conflicted about working, but some curtail their work hours and ambitions. Mothers in Western Germany and Italy, where maternalist values are strong, are stigmatized for pursuing careers. Meanwhile, American working mothers stand apart for their guilt and worry. 

    Policies alone, Collins discovers, cannot solve women's struggles. Easing them will require a deeper understanding of cultural beliefs about gender equality, employment, and motherhood.