Recently my husband and I were at the playground and someone asked what we did for work. My husband hesitated before answering, “I’m in property.”
It wasn’t a lie. My husband spends a huge portion of his days fixing up the house that we bought at foreclosure, which was in need of lots of sweat equity and TLC. But the more accurate description for his current occupation would be “stay at home dad.”
I can’t speak for my husband, but I would argue that the reason that he didn’t tell this person — another man — that he’s been staying home since our two-year-old was born, is that there’s a stigma about choosing to be a stay-at-home parent. Our patriarchal society continues to equate worth with money-making abilities, so when someone is doing the often unseen, undervalued labor of taking care of kids and a household, we somehow classify them as “not working.”
That’s why I was so excited to hear that LinkedIn, the largest networking site around, has expanded its job titles to reflect unpaid caregiving. The new options for job titles include “Stay-at-home mom,” “stay-at-home dad,” “stay-at-home parent,” and “caregiver.”
The site — which helps people maintain their resumes and apply to jobs — has also added explanations to help people categorize their time out of the paid workforce. People can choose to add “sabbatical,” “personal leave” or “parental leave” to their resume
What’s even more awesome about the change at LinkedIn is that it came after a mom and businesswoman, Heather Bolen, called on the platform to update their resume options.
“By simply modernizing its profile editing options, LinkedIn holds the key to encouraging transparent dialogue about employment gaps,” Bolden wrote. “These conversations could help set the stage for improvements in company leave policies and work arrangements that better support primary caregivers.”
Bolen wrote about the issue after trying to update her own resume to reenter the workforce after staying home with her children. At the time, LinkedIn would only let her add the title “homemaker,” which Bolen called old fashioned and sexist.
“Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have dared inserted homemaker on my LinkedIn profile to describe my time out of the paid workforce. It certainly didn’t aptly depict the real work I’d been doing during my ‘time off,’ with its implied emphasis on (presto!) perfectly waxed floors and made beds. Worse, still, I didn’t think recruiters or employers would give me a second glance with the homemaker headline,” she said.
Bolen’s worries were confirmed by a recent Harvard Business Review study that found that employers view former stay-at-home moms as less capable, reliable and committed. That’s hard to read, right?
The study looked at how a current job situation affects people’s likelihood of getting a call back after applying for a job. It found that the identified stay-at-home parents were least likely to get a call back: 15.3% of the employed mothers and 9.7% of the unemployed mothers got a call back, but only 4.9% of the stay-at-home mothers did. Similarly, 14.6% of the employed fathers and 8.8% of unemployed fathers received a callback, but only 5.4% of stay-at-home fathers did.
This is hugely concerning for women in particular, who have left the workforce in droves during the pandemic to look after their kids. There’s still lots of work to be done to break down the stigma of being a caregiver, and the way that our society brushes aside the critical work of parenting. However, having a major business platform like LinkedIn acknowledge that caregivers are working is part of opening an important conversation, as Bolen pointed out.
“By simply modernizing its profile editing options, LinkedIn holds the key to encouraging transparent dialogue about employment gaps,” she wrote. “These conversations could help set the stage for improvements in company leave policies and work arrangements that better support primary caregivers.”
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