Women: Family & Career choices

Final Projects, Visualization
© Katie Martin

What is the relationship between women’s career and giving birth?

Generally, we can observe the international decrease in birth rates from the 1960s to today. We can also note that there is a general inverse correlation between income and total fertility rate within nations. This means that – the higher the education and GDP, the fewer children are born in any developed country. In less developed countries, fertility rates are higher due to the lack of access to contraceptives and generally lower levels of female education. The social structure, religious beliefs, economic prosperity and urbanization within each country are likely to affect birth rates. Developed countries tend to have a lower fertility rate due to lifestyle choices associated with economic affluence where mortality rates are low, birth control is easily accessible and children often can become an economic drain caused by housing, education cost and other cost involved in bringing up children. Couples/women are delaying starting a family which has led to a true decline in their fertility levels due to ovarian aging and related reasons leading to reduced chance of conception. If you are interested in reading more about the topic, this article explains it very well. In the chart below, I’ve used ArcGIS to build the visualization of the differences between developed and less developed countries’ fertility rate. I opted for contrasting colors within the red/yellow spectrum (dark red for high rates and light yellow for low rates) to highlight the dramatic difference of rates per country.

See interactive map with data from 1960 to 2018 here.

In developed countries, more women also dedicate their lives to building a career first and giving birth later in life (within the biological possibilities) or sometimes they just opt for prioritizing their jobs instead of having a family. My last visual representation (below) illustrates how women have been giving birth later and later every year. I used Tableau and opted for contrasting different colors to highlight the areas/shapes and facilitate pinpointing age range.

Click here for interactive visualization.

In the US, women have been more and more participative in the Labor Force since the 1940s, as you can see in the chart below this text block. I have also used Tableau to build it and opted for highlighting the evolution of women’s participation in the labor force throughout the decades.

The increase in women’s participation happened due to a variety of factors; some people say it was due to inventions like the electric washing machine and more free time for women to be creative and inventive. The electric washing machine saved valuable time, and indirectly led to a more balanced family model where both parents are in charge of income, housework and childcare. The great breakthrough of the machine occurred during the 1940’s and 50’s in the United States, and a little later in Britain, Israel, and other countries. In doing so, it changed lifestyles that were fixated for decades. The popularization of birth control pill was another revolutionary event. In the 1960’s, the first birth control pills were made available to the public, developed by the biochemist Gregory Pincus from Worcester’s Institute for Experimental Biology in Massachusetts. It had such a big social impact, expressed even by the name itself: The noun with the definite article “the pill” is exclusively recognized with it, without the need to specify which pill we are talking about. These processes combined contributed to the breakdown of the traditional family hierarchy, in which the man’s career advancement was more important than that of the woman’s.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Participation Rate – Women [LNS11300002], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LNS11300002 

Despite women’s inclusion in the labor force more than fifty years ago, differences between men’s and women’s professional recognition still exist and the major indicative of that is the gender pay gap. Women are constantly overlooked and don’t have the highest salaries due to several reasons like: There are more men in senior roles than women, caring responsibilities and part-time roles are shared unequally, women choose to work in low-paid roles and sectors, women are paid less than men for the same role. Some of the best ways to try and overcome the gender pay gap would be: support promotion and pay transparency, encourage salary negotiations, re-evaluate hiring, promotion, bonus and benefit packages, encourage male parental leave, encourage remote working, diversity, unconscious bias and conscious inclusion training.


Even with all the responsibility and costs that comes with having a baby, most women find themselves at a certain age debating whether to have child or not and if so, when. Hormone and brain-based changes drive this transformation and make a mother. The time that comes in every woman’s life when an uncontrollable “urge” comes over her and she feels a calling from deep within to become a mother. This phenomenon has commonly been called the “biological urge,” and it’s seen as part of women’s biological instinct to have children. We’re taught that it’s something that’s supposed to happen to women at some point in their lives. Sometimes women opt for single parenting, sometimes they opt for staying home while the partner provides money for the family, and sometimes they become mothers even though they are not employed (or can’t be employed because they have to look after their kids). Women carrie the key to create life in their wombs, they are the biological generators and therefore they tend to give up much more (money, time, pleasure) in order to provide a home for their babies. In the chart below we can observe the differences between the amount of households with children and no parent in the working force. There is a huge gender difference in households where a single parent is at home, unemployed, looking after the child. The parent who is unemployed is usually female. Women are more capable of putting their children in front of their careers. Even in the case of divorced couples, it is more likely that women will give up their careers to stay home with the kids while the father provides an alimony.

See interactive map here.

Let’s have a look at California, for example. There are 488,854 children living with their mothers only, the mother not being in the labor force, while 75,806 children living with their father only, father not being in the labor force. The will to prioritize looking after a baby is also a paradox – how is it possible to raise a kid without having an income source? How do women handle looking after their children? Do they adapt more easily than man? Get informal jobs? Regardless, women do what they have to do.

See interactive map here.