5 Superstar Women Sociologists You Should Know

And Why They Are a Big Deal

An illustration of a woman who is seated at a desk and working on her laptop. A white cloud with dots emanates from her computer.

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There are many female sociologists who do important work around the world, on topics ranging from the achievement gap, to global consumption patterns, to gender and sexuality. Read on to learn more about 5 superstar female sociologists.

Juliet Schor

Dr. Juliet Schor is arguably the foremost scholar of the sociology of consumption, and a leading public intellectual who was awarded the 2014 American Sociological Association's prize for advancing the public understanding of sociology. Professor of Sociology at Boston College, she is the author of five books, and co-author and editor of numerous others, has published a multitude of journal articles, and has been cited several thousand times by other scholars. Her research focuses on consumer culture, particularly the work-spend cycle—our tendency to spend more and more, on things that we don’t need and that won’t necessarily make us happier. The work-spend cycle was the focus of her research-rich, popular companion hits The Overspent American and The Overworked American.

Recently, her research has focused on ethical and sustainable approaches to consumption in the context of a failing economy and a planet on the brink. Her 2011 book True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans Are Creating a Time-Rich, Ecologically-Light, Small-Scale, High-Satisfaction Economy makes the case for shifting out of the work-spend cycle by diversifying our personal income sources, placing more value on our time, being more mindful of the impacts of our consumption, consuming differently, and reinvesting in the social fabric of our communities. Her current research into collaborative consumption and the new sharing economy is a part of the MacArthur Foundation's Connected Learning Initiative.

Gilda Ochoa

Dr. Gilda Ochoa is Professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at Pomona College. Her cutting edge approach to teaching and research has her regularly leading teams of college students in community-based research that addresses problems of systemic racism, particularly those related to education, and community-driven responses to it in the greater Los Angeles area. She is the author of the 2013 hit book, Academic Profiling: Latinos, Asian Americans and the Achievement Gap. In this book, Ochoa thoroughly examines the root causes of the achievement gap between Latino and Asian American students in California. Through ethnographic research at one Southern California high school and hundreds of interviews with students, teachers, and parents, Ochoa reveals troubling disparities in opportunity, status, treatment, and assumptions experienced by students. This important work debunks racial and cultural explanations for the achievement gap. 

Following its publication, the book received two important awards: the American Sociological Association's Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award for Anti-Racist Scholarship, and the Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Outstanding Book Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems. She is the author of numerous academic journal articles and two other books—Learning from Latino Teachers and Becoming Neighbors in a Mexican-American Community: Power, Conflict, and Solidarity—and co-editor, with her brother Enrique, of Latino Los Angeles: Transformations, Communities, and Activism. To learn more about Ochoa, you can read her fascinating interview about her book Academic Profiling, her intellectual development, and her research motivations.

Lisa Wade

Dr. Lisa Wade is a preeminent public sociologist in today’s media landscape. Associate Professor of Sociology at Occidental College, she rose to prominence as co-founder and contributor to the widely read blog Sociological Images. She is a regular contributor to national publications and blogs including Salon, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Slate, Politico, The Los Angeles Times, and Jezebel, among others. Wade is an expert in gender and sexuality whose research and writing now focuses on hookup culture and sexual assault on college campuses, the social significance of the body, and U.S. discourse about genital mutilation.

Her research has illuminated the intense sexual objectification that women experience and how this results in unequal treatment, sexual inequality (like the orgasm gap), violence against women, and the socio-structural problem of gender inequality. Wade has written or co-written over a dozen academic journal articles, numerous popular essays, and has frequently been a media guest on radio and television. In 2017, her book American Hookup was published, which examines hookup culture on college campuses. With Myra Marx Ferree, she has co-authored a textbook on the sociology of gender.

Jenny Chan

Dr. Jenny Chan is a groundbreaking researcher whose work, which focuses on issues of labor and working class identity in iPhone factories in China, sits at the intersection of the sociology of globalization and the sociology of work. By gaining hard-to-come-by access to Foxconn factories, Chan has illuminated many of the things Apple doesn't want you to know about how it makes its beautiful products.

She is the author or co-author of numerous journal articles and book chapters, including a heartbreaking and analytically shrewd piece about a Foxconn suicide survivor, and is writing a book with Pun Ngai and Mark Selden, titled Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and a New Generation of Chinese Workers. Chan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and was previously a Lecturer at the University of Oxford. In 2018, she became the Vice President of Communications for the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Labour Movements. She has also played an important role as a scholar-activist, and from 2006 to 2009 was the Chief Coordinator of Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) in Hong Kong, a leading labor watch organization that works to hold corporations accountable for abuses happening in their global supply chains.

C.J. Pascoe

Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon, Dr. C.J. Pascoe is a leading scholar of gender, sexuality, and adolescence. Her work has been cited by other scholars over 2100 times and has been widely cited in national news media. She is the author of the groundbreaking and highly regarded book Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School, winner of the 2008 Outstanding Book Award from the American Educational Research Association. The research featured in the book is a compelling look at how both formal and informal curricula at high schools shape the development of gender and sexuality of students, and how in particular, the idealized form of masculinity boys are expected to perform is premised on the sexual and social control of girls. Pascoe is also a contributor to the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media

She is an engaged public intellectual and activist for the rights of LGBTQ youth, who has worked with organizations including Beyond Bullying: Shifting the Discourse of LGBTQ Sexuality, Youth in Schools, Born This Way Foundation, SPARK! Girls Summit, TrueChild, and the Gay/Straight Alliance Network. Pascoe is working on a new book titled Just a Teenager in Love: Young People’s Cultures of Love and Romance and is a co-founder and co-editor of the blog Social In(Queery).

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Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. "5 Superstar Women Sociologists You Should Know." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/female-sociologists-you-should-know-3026470. Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. (2021, February 16). 5 Superstar Women Sociologists You Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/female-sociologists-you-should-know-3026470 Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. "5 Superstar Women Sociologists You Should Know." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/female-sociologists-you-should-know-3026470 (accessed June 9, 2023).