Influential Women in Sociology From the Last 10 Years

Influential Women in Sociology From the Last 10 Years

Our list of influential women in sociology features those who have been highly cited and searched online over the last 10 years. They include a broad group of academics and practitioners who specialize in areas like feminist theory, ethnography, transnational human migration, and more.

Top 10 Women in Sociology From the Last 10 Years

  1. Patricia Hill Collins
  2. Chandra Talpade Mohanty
  3. Martina Löw
  4. Gail Dines
  5. Theda Skocpol
  6. Meera Kosambi
  7. Jutta Allmendinger
  8. Eva Illouz
  9. Tribisay Lucena
  10. Dorothy E. Smith

Sociology is the study of the complex systems that compose human life, including families, communities, and societies. An advanced degree in sociology will provide you with the instruction, experience, and hands-on education required to conduct research and analyze data in an array of real-world settings. Sociology is a data-driven field where masters learn how to conduct research, study populations, and understand how these populations are impacted by factors like geography, race, economics, and more. Earning a master’s degree in sociology could qualify you for an array of leadership and research roles in social services, public health, education, policy analysis, and much more.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities in this field are comparatively scarce. With just 3000 working professionals today identifying as sociologists and only an additional 100 positions projected to open over the next decade, sociology is growing at a far slower rate than average. That said, in 2016, over half the Master’s Degrees awarded in Sociology were given to women. Moreover, opportunities do abound in related fields. For instance, as of 2020, more than 13,000 working professionals identified as post-secondary sociology educators.

Women interested in advancing in this field benefit from strong advocacy through groups like the Sociologists for Women in Society, a nonprofit professional feminist organization that supports academic research and publication, professional development, and activism. Other consequential organizations include the Association of Black Sociologists, which advocates for the interests of Black sociologists and Black people locally and globally with a particular focus on improving the quality of sociological research, teaching and service, and the American Sociological Association, which is the leading national professional membership association for sociologists.

The list below highlights women who have made critical contributions to education, research, policy, and activism within the broader field of sociology. Topping the list is Patricia Hill Collins, Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park and the first African-American woman (and 100th person overall) to serve as the President of the American Sociological Association. She is included here for her groundbreaking work on intersectionality. Other prominent scholars on our list include Chandra Talpade Mohanty, the Distinguished Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Sociology, and the Cultural Foundations of Education and Dean’s Professor of the Humanities at Syracuse University, Gail Dines, professor emerita of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts, and Theda Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University.

Influential Women in Sociology From the Last 10 Years

  1. #1

    Patricia Hill Collins

    1948 - Present (74 years)

    American sociologist Patrician Hill Collins currently holds the title of University Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She previously was a professor of the University of Cincinnati (where she was also head of the Department of African-American Studies). Collins also holds the distinction of being the 100th president of the American Sociological Association, the first African-American woman to do so. Collins completed her BA in sociology at Brandeis University in 1965, her MA in social science education at Harvard in 1970, and her PhD at Brandeis in 1984.

    Collins is known for her work in the intersection of factors such as race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and national origin affect our perceptions of selves and others, as well as opportunities and barriers, and approach better known as intersectionality. In particular, Collins has placed a great deal of focus on how these various factors affect the status and lives of Black people in America. Though Collins did not coin the term "intersectionality" (that can be traced to Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of our most influential figures in law), her work has done a great deal to advance the idea as a critical tool, and explore how it can be implemented to better understand social issues and inequity.

  2. #2

    Chandra Talpade Mohanty

    1955 - Present (67 years)
    Chandra Talpade Mohanty is a Distinguished Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Sociology, and the Cultural Foundations of Education and Dean’s Professor of the Humanities at Syracuse University. Mohanty, a postcolonial and transnational feminist theorist, has argued for the inclusion of a transnational approach in exploring women’s experiences across the world. She is author of Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity , and co-editor of Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism , Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures , Feminism and W...
  3. #3

    Martina Löw

    1965 - Present (57 years)
    Martina Löw is a German sociologist. Vita Martina Löw graduated in 1993 at the Goethe-University Frankfurt by Marianne Rodenstein with the thesis “Raum ergreifen. Frauen zwischen Arbeit, sozialen Beziehungen und der Kultur des Selbst“. The habilitation was completed in 2000 in the Department of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg and she was awarded the Christian Wolff Prize for her previous work, in particular for her habilitation thesis on Sociology of Space. From January 2002 to July 2013 she was Professor of Sociology at the Technica...
  4. #4

    Gail Dines

    1958 - Present (64 years)
    Gail Dines is professor emerita of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts. A radical feminist, Dines specializes in the study of pornography. Described in 2010 as the world’s leading anti-pornography campaigner, she is a founding member of Stop Porn Culture and founder of Culture Reframed, created to address pornography as a public-health crisis. Dines is co-author of Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality and author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality .
  5. #5

    Theda Skocpol

    1947 - Present (75 years)

    Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. She earned a B.A. from Michigan State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D at Harvard University. She went on to become the first female sociologist to achieve tenure at Harvard University.

    A scholar of historical institutionalism, comparative sociology, and political science, she has studied the phenomena of social revolutions and impacts on social policy and engagement. Her best known work is States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China. Her book Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for best political science book in 2003. Four years later, she received one of the most prestigious awards for political science in the world – the Johan Skytte Prize.

  6. #6

    Meera Kosambi

    1939 - 2015 (76 years)
    Meera Kosambi was an Indian sociologist. Biography She was the younger daughter of the illustrious intellectual, historian, linguist, statistician and mathematician, D.D. Kosambi, and granddaughter of Acharya Dharmananda Damodar Kosambi, a Buddhist scholar and a Pāli language expert. Her mother’s name was Nalini Kosambi . She received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Stockholm. She is the author of several books and articles on urban sociology and women’s studies in India.
  7. #7

    Jutta Allmendinger

    1956 - Present (66 years)
    Jutta Allmendinger is a German sociologist. She is the president of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center and a professor of educational sociology and labor market research at Humboldt University. She is also a senior fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University.
  8. #8

    Eva Illouz

    1961 - Present (61 years)
    Eva Illouz is a professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris. She was the first woman president of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.
  9. #9

    Tibisay Lucena

    1959 - Present (63 years)
    Tibisay Lucena was the president of the National Electoral Council or CNE until 2020, one of the five branches of government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. She was first elected to this post in 2006, and was reelected in 2009 for the 2009-2013 period. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice appointed Indira Alfonzo on June 12, 2020 as the new president of this entity.
  10. #10

    Dorothy E. Smith

    1926 - Present (96 years)
    Dorothy Edith Smith is a Canadian sociologist with research interests in a variety of disciplines, including women’s studies, feminist theory, psychology, and educational studies, as well as in certain subfields of sociology, such as the sociology of knowledge, family studies, and methodology. Smith founded the sociological sub-disciplines of feminist standpoint theory and institutional ethnography.
  11. #11

    Saskia Sassen

    1947 - Present (75 years)

    Saskia Sassen is Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and Centennial Visiting Professor for the London School of Economics. Born in 1947 in The Hague, Netherlands, she grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her father was a Nazi journalist and a member of the Waffen SS. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Notre Dame and an additional master's degree in philosophy from the University of Poitiers.

    A recognized expert in urban sociology, Sassen is credited with coining the term, "global city" used to describe a population center integral to a larger global economic network. Weaving variables of inequality, gendering, and digitization through her study of urban politics, she has investigated the phenomena of transnational human migration, globalization, immigration, and denationalization.

    She has written numerous books, such as The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, Losing Control? Sovereignty in an Age of Globalization, and Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. For her significant accomplishments and scholarship in the field, she was honored with the Prince of Asturius Award in Social Sciences in 2013. She is a member and former chair of the Committee on Global Thought. The French government also recognized her as a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres.

  12. #12

    Nandini Sundar

    1967 - Present (55 years)
    Nandini Sundar is an Indian professor of sociology at the Delhi School of Economics whose research interests include political sociology, law, and inequality. She is a recipient of the Infosys Prize for Social Sciences in 2010. She was also awarded the Ester Boserup Prize for Development Research in 2016 and the Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for Distinguished Contributions to Development Studies in 2017.
  13. #13

    Annette Lareau

    1952 - Present (70 years)
    Annette Patricia Lareau is a sociologist working at the University of Pennsylvania. She has completed extensive field work studying the daily lives of African-Americans and European-Americans. She is also credited with the creation of the term concerted cultivation. This concept refers to middle class child rearing practices. She says that this differs from the parents of children in working-class families, who attribute much of their child raising tactics to the accomplishment of natural growth.
  14. #14

    Sherry Turkle

    1948 - Present (74 years)

    Sherry Turkle is a noted expert on the interactions between humans and technology. She earned a B.A. in Social Studies from Radcliffe College and her Ph.D in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University. Her career has been spent examining the advancement of technologies and the changes in human social behavior that have resulted.

    She has written numerous books about humans and technology, including The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit and Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. The Second Self is a highly regarded work about how technology is changing how humans think. In Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Turkle suggests that technology is often a means of escaping reality, and as we escape reality, we drift further from genuine human interaction.

  15. #15

    Mireia Vehí

    1985 - Present (37 years)
    Mireia Vehí i Cantenys is a Spanish sociologist and politician from Catalonia, who currently serves as Member of the Congress of Deputies of Spain. She was previously a member of the Parliament of Catalonia.
  16. #16

    Nancy Fraser

    1947 - Present (75 years)

    Nancy Fraser is a critic of contemporary liberal feminism and identity politics. She is the Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science and professor of philosophy at The New School. She earned her B.A. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr and her Ph.D in philosophy from the City University of New York Graduate Center.

    Her work on the conceptions of justice and injustice have led her to the conclusion that justice can be viewed in two ways: distributive justice (related to equitable distribution of resources), and justice of recognition (related to recognition of identity). Likewise, injustice can be viewed as either maldistribution or misrecognition. In her view, society's recent preoccupation with the injustice of misrecognition has diverted attention and resources from the ongoing problems of maldistribution.

    Fraser has been International Research Chair in Social Justice for Collège d'études mondiales in Paris, a visiting professor in women's rights for University of Cambridge and Senior fellow for the Center for Advanced Studies, "Justitia Amplificata," in Frankfurt. She is president of the American Philosophical Association's Eastern Division. In 2018, she was honored with the Nessim Habif World Prize by The Graduate Institute, the Award for Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship by the Havens Center for Social Justice at the University of Wisconsin, and the Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur.

  17. #17

    Marisa Matias

    1976 - Present (46 years)
    Marisa Isabel dos Santos Matias is a Portuguese sociologist and Member of the European Parliament, elected for the first time in 2009 and re-elected in 2014. She currently sits on the Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industry, Research and Energy Committees. She is also Chairwoman of the Delegation of the European Parliament for relations with the Mashreq countries . Between 2010 and 2016 she was Vice-President of the Party of the European Left.
  18. #18

    Nancy Chodorow

    1944 - Present (78 years)
    Nancy Julia Chodorow is an American sociologist and professor. She can be categorized as a Humanistic psychoanalytic sociologist and Psychoanalytic feminist. Throughout her career, she has been influenced by psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Karen Horney, as well as feminist theorists Beatrice Whiting and Phillip Slater. She is a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association, and often speaks at its congresses. She began as a professor at Wellesley College in 1973, a year later she began at the University of California, Santa Cruz until 1986. She then went on to spend many years as ...
  19. #19

    Margaret Archer

    1943 - Present (79 years)
    Margaret Scotford Archer is an English sociologist, who spent most of her academic career at the University of Warwick where she was for many years Professor of Sociology. She was also a professor at l’Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland. She is best known for coining the term elisionism in her 1995 book Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach. On 14 April 2014, Archer was named by Pope Francis to succeed former Harvard law professor and US Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon as President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and served in this po...
  20. #20

    Donna Haraway

    1944 - Present (78 years)
    Donna J. Haraway is an American Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department and Feminist Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, United States. She is a prominent scholar in the field of science and technology studies, described in the early 1990s as a “feminist and postmodernist”. Haraway is the author of numerous foundational books and essays that bring together questions of science and feminism, such as “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” and “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in F...
  21. #21

    Marta Harnecker

    1937 - 2019 (82 years)
    Marta Harnecker was a Chilean journalist, author, psychologist, sociologist and Marxist intellectual. She worked in the analysis of the labor movement and elaborated many pieces of formative documentation. She was also an advisor to the socialist Marxist government of Cuba, as well as a collaborator with left-wing political movements in Latin America. She was active in the government of Salvador Allende between 1970 and 1973, and a counselor of Hugo Chávez between 2004 and 2011.
  22. #22

    Czarina Saloma

    1970 - Present (52 years)
    Czarina Aya-ay Saloma-Akpedonu is a Filipino sociologist who is a professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Ateneo de Manila University. Education Saloma-Akpedonu has a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman, a master’s degree from Peking University in China, and a doctorate from Bielefeld University in Germany.
  23. #23

    Farzana Islam

    1957 - Present (65 years)
    Farzana Islam is a Bangladeshi academic. She is a former vice-chancellor of Jahangirnagar University during 20014–2022. In 2014, she became the first female vice-chancellor of a public university in Bangladesh. She allegedly accused of different irregularities and corruption by both Students and Teachers. They also published a book. The 224-page book features reports on different irregularities and corruptions published in different newspapers.
  24. #24

    Michèle Lamont

    1957 - Present (65 years)

    Canadian-born Michèle Lamont currently holds the title of Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard University, as well as Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. She has also held professorial positions at the University of Texas at Austin and Princeton University, and visiting roles at a variety of international institutions. Beyond being a professor, Lamont served as the 108th President of the American Sociological Association from 2016-2017, chair to the Council for European Studies from 2006-2009, and co-director of the Co-director of the Successful Societies Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Lamont completed her BA and MA in political theory in 1979 at the University of Ottawa, and her Ph.D. from the University of Paris in 1983.

    Lamont is a cultural and comparative sociologist and her work is primarily focused on issues of inequality and social hierarchy. In particular, Lamont has focused on how racism and stigma emerge from and also inform inequality in social systems. Lamont argues for a theory of boundaries, in which society is defined by symbolic boundaries (conceptual distinctions of groups and members) and social boundaries (social differences defined by inequality of social opportunities). These ideas have been influential in understanding race relations and inequality in American and European societies.

  25. #25

    Zeynep Tufekci

    Zeynep Tufekci is a sociologist and a writer, and a columnist for The New York Times. Her work focuses on the social implications of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data, as well as societal challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic using complex and systems-based thinking. She has been described as “having a habit of being right on the big things” by The New York Times and as one of the most prominent academic voices on social media and the new public sphere by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
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Image Credits:

Top row, left to right: Patricia Hill Collins, Emmanuelle Charpentier, Malala Yousafzai, Shafi Goldwasser, Jennifer Doudna, Fabiola Gianotti, Michiko Kakutani, Lauren Underwood.

Bottom row, left to right: Fei-Fei Li, Esther Duflo, Kathy Reichs, Nancy Fraser, Brené Brown, Judith Curry, Jill Lepore, Zaha Hadid.