Caitlyn Collins

Assistant Professor of Sociology and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies​ (Affiliate)
PhD, University of Texas at Austin
research interests:
  • Gender Inequality
  • Work
  • Families
  • Social Policy

contact info:

office hours:

  • Thursday 1:30 - 1:00 PM​

mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
  • CB 1112
  • ONE BROOKINGS DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
image of book cover

​Caitlyn 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.

Caitlyn Collins is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis. Her current project is an interview study of 135 working mothers in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the United States. These four 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 Caregivingis out in February 2019 with Princeton University Press.

Collins' work is supported by the National Science Foundation, American Association of University Women, and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), among others. Her research appears in peer-reviewed journals including Gender & SocietyQualitative Sociology, and several edited books. This work has received press coverage in The New York TimesHarvard Business ReviewThe AtlanticWashington Post, and National Public Radio. She received her B.A. from Whitman College and her Ph.D. in Sociology from The University of Texas at Austin. Her next project is an ethnographic study of the market for childcare.

Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving

Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving

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 United States 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. The highest maternal and child poverty rates. Can American women look to European policies for solutions? Making Motherhood Work draws on interviews that sociologist Caitlyn Collins conducted over five years with 135 middle-class working mothers in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the United States. She explores how women navigate work and family given the different policy supports available in each country.

Taking readers into women’s homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces, 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. With women held to unrealistic standards in all four countries, the best solutions demand that we redefine motherhood, work, and family.