The changes are meant to reflect the career shifts faced by employees, particularly women, who choose to spend time away from paid work to care for their families, especially in 2020, when the global health emergency caused schools and daycare centres to close.
As explained by LinkedIn: “We’ve heard from our members, particularly women and mothers who have temporarily stopped working, that they need more ways to reflect career gaps on their Profile due to parenting and other life responsibilities. To make it easier for moms, and all parents, we are making some important changes to the Profile. We introduced new job titles, including “stay-at-home mom,” “stay-at-home dad” and “stay-at-home parent” to allow full-time parents and caretakers to more accurately display their roles.”
However, this decision sparked a new debate on whether parents should use this feature and whether it will affect their search for a job negatively.
It is reported that users should steer clear of these new LinkedIn titles. An experiment conducted by Correll and colleagues showed that employers were 2.1 times more likely to give a callback to a woman who was not a parent than to an equally qualified mother. What’s more, a research study shows that employers are so biased against job applicants who have temporarily stayed at home with their children, that they even prefer laid-off candidates who have been out of work for the same amount of time.
Does this mean that there is still a stigma on people who decide to leave their careers to become a caregiver?
A research study that explored the views of Finnish mothers and fathers showed that being the target of contradictory demands made the mothers feel guilty, regardless of whatever they did; if they stayed at home or if they started working. It is argued that the confidence drop that begins at maternity leave, continues long past when a woman leaves the workplace until when she is ready to return.
Having this in mind, some people think that the new feature of LinkedIn is a good thing, and it normalizes the “job” of a parent or a caregiver. “People who have been out of work for a variety of reasons – including to raise a child, care for a loved one, support a military spouse, etc – represent a tremendous pool of untapped talent” says Jenise Tate, the head of women’s strategic initiatives for the global talent acquisition team at Bank of America.
For instance, parents who wish to return to work after a long period of absence could list the skills they gained during that time. “Personalize your letter to the organization, tell them what attracted you to this company, and explain what you did during your time away. Describe how the skills or learning you gained during your career pause are transferable to the work environment” says Laurie White, vice president of talent acquisition at ADP, a human resources company. Some skills could include time management, planning, problem-solving, and prioritization abilities.
But how can recruiters and business leaders react to this new feature?
First of all, we need to understand that apart from some people who actually wish to become a stay-at-home parent, sometimes the workplace itself pushes employees to choose between parenting or career. There have been numerous cases of organizations that make it impossible for parents to continue working after having a child.
Inflexible workplace practices and demanding workplace cultures that promote long working hours and being always online can contribute to parents leaving work in the first place. What is more, managers who don't support their team members taking up their paid leave, practice remote working, and flexible working hours could contribute to this.
So, before trying to find the solution to this problem, we need to understand that some employees are stuck in a cycle: workplaces that push parents out of work and then not choosing a stay-at-home parent to work for them.
Given the fact that we are now still living in a pandemic, and numerous employees quit their jobs due to childcare needs, school closures or looking after a sick family member, the title of stay-at-home parent started to be normalized.
With the support of business leaders and targeted “returnship” programmes, employees would be willing to return to work, and for those who do not, recruiters should be more open-minded and see the positive aspects of the gap in their resume.
For more tips on how to support working parents during the pandemic listen to our podcast episode, with our guests Professor Brad Harrington and Jennifer Sabatini Fraone of the Boston College Centre for Work & Family.